Affiliation: Department of Medicine A, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Campus, Petah-Tikva, ISRAEL, 49100.
The telomere-telomerase system has a unique role in the biology of cancer. Telomere maintenance, mostly affected by the up regulation of telomerase activity, is a prerequisite for perpetuation of malignant cells. This fundamental biologic feature defines telomere maintenance as an attractive therapeutic target for most types of cancer. This review summarizes some critical aspects of telomere biology with special emphasis on the connection to anticancer therapy. In particular, the effects on the telomere - telomerase system of conventional anticancer treatments, including various cytotoxic drugs, targeted biological agents and radiotherapy, and their possible combination with telomerase-directed therapy are discussed. Several potential problems, including side effects and complications inherent to perturbations of telomere biology in normal cells, are also highlighted. In spite of significant progress in this field, there are still several issues that have to be addressed and ultimately resolved in order to obtain a better characterization of the pros and cons of telomerasedirected therapies and, consequently, their clinical relevance.