Telomeres and telomere dynamics: Relevance to cancers of the GI tract

Nivedita Basu, Halcyon G. Skinner, Kristin Litzelman, Russell Vanderboom, Esha Baichoo, Lisa A. Boardman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Aberrations in telomere length and telomere maintenance contribute to cancer development. In this article, we review the basic principles of telomere length in normal and tumor tissue and the presence of the two main telomere maintenance pathways as they pertain to gastrointestinal tract cancer. Peripheral blood telomeres are shorter in patients with many types of gastrointestinal tract cancers. Telomere length in tumor DNA also appears to shorten early in cancer development. Tumor telomere shortening is often accompanied by telomerase activation to protect genetically damaged DNA from normal cell senescence or apoptosis, allowing immortalized but damaged DNA to persist. Alternative lengthening of telomeres is another mechanism used by cancer to maintain telomere length in cancer cells. Telomerase and alternative lengthening of telomeres activators and inhibitors may become important chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agents as our understanding of telomere biology, specific telomere-related phenotypes and its relationship to carcinogenesis increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-748
Number of pages16
JournalExpert Review of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2013


  • TERT
  • alternative lengthening of telomeres
  • cancer
  • cancer risk
  • telomerase
  • telomere maintenance genes
  • telomeres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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