Telomerase targeted therapy in cancer and cancer stem cells

Clin Adv Hematol Oncol. 2011 Jun;9(6):442-55.


Telomerase plays a key role in cell fate: loss of telomerase in normal differentiated cells heralds senescence and limits cell division, whereas reactivation of telomerase sustains proliferation and potentiates mutagenesis and transformation. Given this pivotal role, telomerase has been the subject of intense investigation in the field of developmental cancer therapeutics. To date, a broad spectrum of therapeutic strategies has been developed, ranging from direct targeting or reprogramming of the enzyme, to immune or virus-mediated targeting of cells expressing telomerase, to strategies focusing on the telomeres themselves. The recent discovery and growing interest in cancer stem cells has thrust telomerase therapy into new relief as an approach that may be uniquely suited to neutralizing this treatment-resistant subpopulation of cancer cells. Here we will review the mechanistic rationale and preclinical and clinical state of development of the various telomerase-based therapeutic approaches, with emphasis on the role of telomerase in cancer stem cell biology and its implications for therapeutic efforts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / enzymology*
  • Telomerase / physiology*


  • Telomerase