Telomere shortening may be early marker of cancer activity

July 16, 2003 | Source: KurzweilAI

Telomere shortening may be one of the earliest and most prevalent changes on a cell’s path to cancer, according to two studies presented at the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

As cells divide and age, telomere DNA is lost and telomeres get shorter and shorter. The new study suggests that telomere dysfunction from the shortening may play a causal role in human intraepithelial neoplasia (IEN) found in precancers.

“Normal human cells have systems that monitor telomere length, either halting cell division or causing the cell to commit suicide, should telomeres become too short,” said Alan K. Meeker, postdoctoral fellow in urology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and lead author of the studies. “When the systems break down, critically short telomeres can lose function, destabilizing the chromosomes and, we are finding, lead to cancer.”

American Association for Cancer Research press release