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Variations in telomere maintenance and the role of telomerase inhibition in gastrointestinal cancer

Authors Heeg S

Received 11 May 2015

Accepted for publication 29 October 2015

Published 4 December 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 171—180

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PGPM.S52808

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Barthelemy Diouf

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Martin H. Bluth


Steffen Heeg

Department of Medicine II, Gastroenterology, Hepatology, Endocrinology, and Infectious Diseases, Medical Center – University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

Abstract: Immortalization is an important step toward the malignant transformation of human cells and is critically dependent upon telomere maintenance. There are two known mechanisms to maintain human telomeres. The process of telomere maintenance is either mediated through activation of the enzyme telomerase or through an alternative mechanism of telomere lengthening called ALT. While 85% of all human tumors show reactivation of telomerase, the remaining 15% are able to maintain telomeres via ALT. The therapeutic potential of telomerase inhibitors is currently investigated in a variety of human cancers. Gastrointestinal tumors are highly dependent on telomerase as a mechanism of telomere maintenance, rendering telomeres as well as telomerase potential targets for cancer therapy. This article focuses on the molecular mechanisms of telomere biology and telomerase activation in gastrointestinal cancers and reviews strategies of telomerase inhibition and their potential therapeutic use in these tumor entities.

Keywords: telomere based therapy, gastrointestinal cancer, telomere maintenance, telomerase inhibition

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