Telomere biology of pediatric cancer

Cancer Invest. Apr-May 2007;25(3):197-208. doi: 10.1080/07357900701208683.


One of the hallmarks of cancer is limitless proliferative capacity, which is tightly associated with the ability to maintain telomeres. Over the last decade, the telomere biology of pediatric cancers has begun to be elucidated. Most pediatric leukemias and embryonal solid tumors activate the enzyme telomerase, a specialized reverse transcriptase that adds nucleotide repeats to telomeres. In general, high levels of tumor telomerase expression are associated with unfavorable outcome, although results vary according to tumor type. Some pediatric tumors, including osteosarcoma and glioblastoma multiforme, lack telomerase activity and maintain telomeres via a recombination-based mechanism called ALT (alternative lengthening of telomeres). Telomerase is a highly attractive therapeutic target for pediatric cancer because the enzyme plays a key role in conferring cellular immortality, is present in most tumors, and is relatively specific for cancer cells. Telomerase inhibitors have been evaluated in preclinical models of adult cancers, but few studies have been conducted on pediatric cancers. Further research is required to define how telomere biology can be used to clinical advantage in malignancies of childhood.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Child
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Telomerase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Telomere / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Telomerase