Telomeres markers can help diagnose carcinomas

Telomeres are regions of repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres become shorter each time the cell divides. That's normal. What is not normal is when cancers counteract this shortening through a process called alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that the presence of ALT in carcinomas can be used as a diagnostic marker and can help develop anti-cancer drug therapies.

"These results may have therapeutic consequences, given that cancers using the ALT pathway are predicted to be resistant to anti-telomerase therapies, some of which have entered phase I/II clinical trials," Johns Hopkins researcher Alan K. Meeker said in a statement. "Further understanding of the molecular mechanisms of ALT will be paramount in designing novel anti-cancer therapeutics targeting cancers utilizing the ALT pathway."

Other studies have already shown connections between ALT status and prognosis in some types of tumors. The authors of this latest paper, appearing in The American Journal of Pathology, say more studies are needed to determine how good a prognosticator ALT can be. They note that there are many tumors that may not use the ALT pathway for telomere maintenance, including tumors of the prostate, colon, pancreas and small intestine.

- read the release
- and read the abstract in The American Journal of Pathology

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