Telomerase activity in human cancer

Jerry W. Shay, Woodring E. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


The chromosome ends are specialized nucleoprotein structures called telomeres, which are essential for stable chromosome maintenance. In tumor- derived cell lines telomeres are maintained by the ribonucleoprotein enzyme telomerase. Telomerase activity is repressed in almost all normal human somatic cells. Due to the end replication problem, progressive telomere shortening occurs in normal somatic cells, leading to a limited replicative capacity and eventually resulting in cellular senescence. In the presence of viral oncogenes or some somatic mutations that block cellular senescence, cells continue to divide and telomere erosion continues. This continuing telomere erosion ultimately leads to the activation of telomerase, a necessary event for the sustained growth of most human tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-71
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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