Detection of telomerase activity in biopsy samples of colorectal cancer

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Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein that synthesizes telomeric DNA onto chromosomal ends. The expression of telomerase is thought to be required for cellular immortality and oncogenesis.


To investigate the role of telomerase in the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer, we analysed telomerase activity in biopsy samples of colorectal cancer and colonic adenomas. Using a polymerase chain reaction-based assay, we examined telomerase activity in 52 samples of colorectal cancer, 12 colonic adenomas and 30 normal colonic mucosa samples obtained by endoscopic biopsy.


Telomerase activity was detectable in 88.5% (46/52) of colorectal carcinomas, in 50% (6/12) of colonic adenomas but not in normal colorectal mucosa. There was no correlation between telomerase activity and tumour location, type, size and differentiation (P > 0.05).


It was concluded that telomerase activation plays a role in the evolution of colorectal cancer, and that measurement of telomerase activity in biopsied colorectal mucosa samples may provide information both as a diagnostic marker to detect small numbers of cancer cells, and as a screening method for patients at high risk for colorectal carcinoma.

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