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The American Association for Cancer Research Congratulates President-Elect on Nobel Prize
Date:10/5/2009

single-celled pond dweller Tetrahymena, telomerase continuously replenishes the chromosome’s telomeric tips. In humans, however, research showed that telomerase is damped down at certain times in the lives of many types of cells, limiting their ability to self-replenish.

With this discovery, scientists saw the possibility of exploring whether, in humans, the enzyme could be reactivated to prolong cell life to treat age-related diseases, and deactivated to interrupt cancers.
Most normal cells do not divide frequently, therefore, their chromosomes are not at risk of shortening and they do not require high telomerase activity. In contrast, cancer cells have the ability to divide infinitely and yet preserve their telomeres. One explanation became apparent with the finding that cancer cells often have increased telomerase activity. It was, therefore, proposed that cancer might be treated by eradicating telomerase. Several studies are underway in this area, including clinical trials evaluating vaccines directed against cells with elevated telomerase activity.

In recent years, Blackburn and colleagues have investigated the possibility that life stress, the perception of life stress and lifestyle behaviors could take a toll on telomerase and telomeres. They have reported several studies with human participants that suggest a correlation. The findings may offer insight, at the cellular level, into the impact of stress on early onset of age-related diseases.

Blackburn is a co-chair of the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Basic Cancer Research meeting and will address the subject of “Cellular Responses to Telomerase Peturbations” on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2
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