Clinical Relevance of Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres in Cancer

Curr Top Med Chem. 2020;20(6):485-497. doi: 10.2174/1568026620666200110112854.


The alternative lengthening of telomere (ALT) is a pathway responsible for cell immortalization in some kinds of tumors. Since the first description of ALT is relatively recent in the oncology field, its mechanism remains elusive, but recent works address ALT-related proteins or cellular structures as potential druggable targets for more specific and efficient antitumor therapies. Moreover, some new generation compounds for antitelomerase therapy in cancer were able to provoke acquisition of ALT phenotype in treated tumors, enhancing the importance of studies on this alternative lengthening of the telomere. However, ALT has been implicated in different - sometimes opposite - outcomes, according to the tumor type studied. Then, in order to design and develop new drugs for ALT+ cancer in an effective way, it is crucial to understand its clinical implications. In this review, we gathered works published in the last two decades to highlight the clinical relevance of ALT on oncology.

Keywords: ALT; Cancer; Cell immortalization; Oncology; Telomerase; Telomeres..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Telomere / genetics*
  • Telomere Homeostasis*