Telomerase and cancer stem cells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Telomerase is critical for the integrity of stem cell compartments. Mutations in telomerase components lead to telomere shortening and hematopoietic stem cell failure in autosomal dominant dyskeratosis congenita and aplastic anemia. Telomerase activity is readily detected in most cancers but not in adult somatic cells. The telomere hypothesis for cancer states that telomerase is reactivated in late stages of carcinogenesis. However, recent evidence has suggested a stem cell origin for certain cancers, implying that the genetic alterations that lead to cancer accumulate in tissue-specific stem cells and not in adult somatic cells. In these cancers, stem cells would already have telomerase and it would not need to be reactivated. Here, we reconsider the telomere hypothesis in view of this evidence and propose that, rather than telomerase reactivation, enzyme activity may increase in later stages of carcinogenesis due to increased expression or efficient assembly of telomerase components. Understanding these mechanisms will refine approaches to telomerase inhibition in cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-208
Number of pages4
JournalCold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Telomerase and cancer stem cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this