Telomere maintenance is a hallmark of cancer as it provides cancer cells with cellular immortality. A significant fraction of tumors uses the alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) pathway to elongate their telomeres and to gain an unlimited proliferation potential. Since the ALT pathway is unique to cancer cells, it represents a potentially valuable, currently unexploited target for anti-cancer therapies. Recently, it was proposed that ALT renders cells hypersensitive to ataxia telangiectasia- and RAD3-related (ATR) protein inhibitors (Flynn et al., Science 347, 273). Here, we measured the response of various ALT- or telomerase-positive cell lines to the ATR inhibitor VE-821. In addition, we compared the effect of the inhibitor on cell viability in isogenic cell lines, in which ALT was active or suppressed. In these experiments, a general ATR inhibitor sensitivity of cells with ALT could not be confirmed. We rather propose that the observed variations in sensitivity reflect differences between cell lines that are unrelated to ALT.
Keywords: ATR inhibitor; VE-821; alternative lengthening of telomeres; ataxia telangiectasia- and RAD3-related.