Telomeres at the termini of human chromosomes are shortened with each round of cell division due to the "end replication problem" as well as oxidative stress. During carcinogenesis, cells acquire or retain mechanisms to maintain telomeres to avoid initiation of cellular senescence or apoptosis and halting cell division by critically short telomeres. The unique reverse transcriptase enzyme complex, telomerase, catalyzes the maintenance of telomeres but most human somatic cells do not have sufficient telomerase activity to prevent telomere shortening. Tissues with high and prolonged replicative potential demonstrate adequate cellular telomerase activity to prevent telomere erosion, and high telomerase activity appears to be a critical feature of most (80-90%) epithelial cancers, including endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancers regress in response to progesterone which is frequently used to treat advanced endometrial cancer. Endometrial telomerase is inhibited by progestogens and deciphering telomere and telomerase biology in endometrial cancer is therefore important, as targeting telomerase (a downstream target of progestogens) in endometrial cancer may provide novel and more effective therapeutic avenues. This review aims to examine the available evidence for the role and importance of telomere and telomerase biology in endometrial cancer.
Keywords: TERRA; TRAP; endometrial cancer; endometrium; hTERC; hTERT; telomerase; telomere.