Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres ID'd in Most Cancers

Friday, September 9, 2011 (Last Updated: 09/12/2011)

FRIDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of the telomerase-independent telomere maintenance mechanism, known as alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT), is 3.73 percent across all cancer subtypes, according to a study published online Sept. 2 in The American Journal of Pathology.

Christopher M. Heaphy, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues investigated the ALT phenotype in a broad range of human cancers. Combined telomere-specific fluorescence in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence labeling for promyelocytic leukemia protein were used to evaluate ALT status in two independent sets, which included 6,110 primary tumors from 94 different cancer subtypes, 541 benign neoplasms and 264 normal tissue samples.

The investigators identified ALT in 3.73 percent of all tumor samples, but not in benign neoplasms or normal tissue samples. ALT telomere maintenance mechanism was observed in carcinomas arising from the bladder, cervix, endometrium, esophagus, gallbladder, kidney, liver, lung, medulloblastomas, oligodendrogliomas, meningiomas, schwannomas, and pediatric glioblastoma multiformes, but not in adenocarcinomas arising from the prostate, pancreas, small intestine, stomach, or colon.

"These findings may have therapeutic consequences, because ALT-positive cancers are predicted to be resistant to anti-telomerase therapies," the authors write.

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Specialties Hematology & Oncology
Internal Medicine

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