The non-canonical functions of telomerase: to turn off or not to turn off

Mol Biol Rep. 2019 Feb;46(1):1401-1411. doi: 10.1007/s11033-018-4496-x. Epub 2018 Nov 17.


Telomerase is perceived as an immortality enzyme that enables passing the Hayflick limit. Its main function is telomere restoration but only in a limited group of cells, including cancer cells. Since it is found in a vast majority of cancer cells, it became a natural target for cancer therapy. However, it has much more functions than just altering the metabolism of telomeres-it also reveals numerous so-called non-canonical functions. Thus, a question arises whether it is always beneficial to turn it off when planning a cancer strategy and considering potential side effects? The purpose of this review is to discuss some of the recent discoveries about telomere-independent functions of telomerase in the context of cancer therapy and potential side effects.

Keywords: Cancer; Telomerase; Telomeres; hTERT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Telomere / metabolism


  • Telomerase