Disruption of telomere homeostasis as a new cancer treatment strategy
Telomeres are critical for the protection of chromosomal ends and genomic integrity. Telomeres can be maintained by their associated proteins (collectively termed as telosome or shelterin) as well as the telomerase complex containing a reverse transcriptase component. While most somatic human cells lack telomerase activity to sufficiently maintain telomeres, the majority of all cancer cells express telomerase activity. The maintenance of telomeres contributes to the immortal phenotype seen in most cancers. Therefore, it has been proposed that targeting telomere maintenance should result in a highly specific and universal treatment for cancer. Here the topic of targeting the immortal phenotype of cancer by disrupting telomere homeostasis is discussed as well as the current status, and challenges, of clinical trials.