Telomere dysfunction and the initiation of genome instability

Nat Rev Cancer. 2003 Aug;3(8):623-7. doi: 10.1038/nrc1142.


Tumour growth is an evolutionary process that is characterized by the selection of clonal populations of cells that acquire distinct genetic changes. Many cancer therapies aim to exploit the specific changes that occur in cancer cells, but understanding the underlying mechanisms of genomic instability that cause these mutations could lead to more effective therapies. If common mechanisms exist for initiating genomic instability in tumours, selection could explain the differences in specific gene mutations that accumulate in different tumour types. The cause of genomic instability in human tumours is unclear, although there is evidence to indicate that telomere dysfunction could make an important contribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cellular Senescence
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Telomere / physiology*