Telomerase detection in body fluids

J. L. Hess, Jr Highsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein that maintains chromosomal telomere length. Telomerase is not active in nonmalignant somatic cells, but is activated in most human cancers. Telomerase activity in easily obtainable body fluids that bathe tumors may be a useful cancer marker, especially when used in conjunction with conventional cytology. Approach: Results from studies that assayed telomerase activity in easily obtainable body fluids are reviewed. Content: The telomerase repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) assay has been used to measure telomerase activity in body fluids, including ascites, pleural effusions, pelvic washes, bronchial washings, bronchial lavage, urine, bladder washings, oral rinses, and plasma. Telomerase activity has sensitivities of 60-90% as a tumor marker with clinical specificities for cancer of ∼90%. Telomerase activity is more sensitive than conventional cytology, the sensitivity of which was 40-65% in various studies. Summary: Telomerase activity in body fluids, as measured by the TRAP assay, is a sensitive potential tumor marker that might help increase the cancer detection rate and the cancer treatment success rate when combined with conventional cytology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
JournalClinical chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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