Therapeutic Targets in Telomerase and Telomere Biology of Cancers

Indian J Clin Biochem. 2020 Apr;35(2):135-146. doi: 10.1007/s12291-020-00876-8. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Telomeres play an important role to conserve genomic integrity by protecting the ends of chromosomes in normal cells. Since, their progressive shortening during successive cell division which lead to chromosomal instability. Notably, telomere length is perpetuated by telomerase in large majority of cancers, thereby ensure indefinite cell proliferation-a hallmark of cancer-and this unique feature has provided telomerase as the preferred target for drug development in cancer therapeutics. Cancer cells have acquired the potential to have telomere length maintenance by telomerase activation- up-regulation of hTERT gene expression in tumor cells is synchronized by multiple genetic and epigenetic modification mechanisms viz hTERT structural variants, hTERT promoter mutation and epigenetic modifications through hTERT promoter methylation which have been implicated in various cancers initiation and progression. In view of these facts, strategies have been made to target the underlining molecular mechanisms involved in telomerase reactivation as well as of telomere structure with special reference to distortion of sheltrin proteins. This review is focussed on extensive understanding of telomere and telomerase biology. which will provide indispensable informations for enhancing the efficiency of rational anticancer drug design. However, there is also an urgent need for better understanding of cell signalling pathways for alternative lengthening of telomere which is present in telomerase negative cancer for therapeutic targets.

Keywords: ALT; Anticancer therapy; Epigenetics; Shelterin; Telomerase; Telomere; hTERT promoter mutations.

Publication types

  • Review