Telomere Biology and cancer
- In somatic cells telomeres gradually become shortened due to the end-replication problem during DNA duplication associated with cell division1,2.
- Once telomeres reach a critical length they no longer protect the DNA, the chromosomes become uncapped and as a consequence senescence is triggered 3.
- Cancer cells must overcome this crisis stage to maintain their telomeres and achieve immortality. They do so by activating telomerase4 (in about 85% of tumors) or by the use of alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) through telomerase-independent mechanisms (about 15%) 5.