Telomeres & Cancer

Cancer cells don't die. This is why cancer is so dangerous.

Cancer is a condition in which certain cells in the body avoid dying. These cells are able to continually rebuild their telomeres after each division.

Fueled by telomerase, an enzyme that rebuilds telomeres after cell division, cancer cells are able to prevent telomere shortening, replicate without limitation, and (conceivably) live forever.

The accumulation of these out-of-control cells creates a tumor.

So why not treat cancer by eliminating the telomerase?

Scientists are, in fact, working on treatments that would target cells with high levels of telomerase. Just knowing that cells have telomerase activity may be a good way to detect cancer.

There are risks, however, to targeting telomerase.

Healthy cells that require telomerase for their normal processes, such as blood cells, immune system cells, and reproductive cells, may also suffer when targeting cancer cell telomerase.