Telomere shortening is associated with cancer development, primarily through the induction of genomic instability. The majority of studies have indicated that individuals with shorter blood telomeres may be at a higher risk of developing various types of cancer. There is increasing evidence that the study of the alterations in telomere length may improve cancer prognosis. The aim of the present study was to verify the use of telomere length parameters in the diagnostics of breast cancer stage. Telomere length was analyzed in the blood leukocytes of 52 patients with breast cancer relative to 47 control subjects using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The effects of stage, grade, estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) status were assessed. The current study demonstrated that the average telomeric sequence length was significantly shorter in leukocytes from individuals diagnosed with a more severe stage of breast cancer (T2N1M0) than in leukocytes in the early stages of the disease (T1N0M0) (P=0.0207). Furthermore, the data indicated that telomeres in leukocytes derived from patients with HER2+ breast cancer were significantly longer compared with those with the HER2- type (P=0.0347). These results suggest that the assessment of telomeres in blood leukocytes may, at least partially, correspond with breast cancer staging and HER2 receptor status.
Keywords: biomarker; breast cancer; telomerase; telomere length; tumor.