• Open Access

Targeting telomerase-expressing cancer cells


Jerry W. SHAY, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Department of Cell Biology, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.  
Tel.: +214-648-3282
Fax: +214-648-8694
E-mail: Jerry.Shay@UTSouthwestern.edu


  • • Targeting telomerase-expressing cancer cells
  • • Human telomeres act as a mitotic clock
  • • Telomerase expression and cellular lifespan
    • - Telomerase inhibition to block tumour growth
  • • Telomerase-targeted immunotherapy
  • • Targeting telomerase-expressing cells with oncolytic viruses
  • • Concluding remarks

The role of telomeres and telomerase as a target for cancer therapeutics is an area of continuing interest. This review is intended to provide an update on the field, pointing to areas in which our knowledge remains deficient and exploring the details of the most promising areas being advanced into clinical trials. Topics that will be covered include the role of dysfunctional telomeres in cellular aging and how replicative senescence provides an initial barrier to the emergence of immortalized cells, a hallmark of cancer. As an important translational theme, this review will consider possibilities for selectively targeting telomeres and telomerase to enhance cancer therapy. The role of telomerase as an immunotherapy, as a gene therapy approach using telomerase promoter driven oncolytic viruses and as a small oligonucleotide targeted therapy (Imetelstat) will be discussed.