Telomerase activity is associated with cell cycle deregulation in human breast cancer

Göran Landberg, Niels Hilmer Nielsen, Pia Nilsson, Stefan O. Emdin, Jenny Cajander, Göran Roos

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Deregulation of the cell cycle by abnormal expression of one or several cell cycle regulatory proteins is a common finding in malignant tumors and might be a prerequisite for cancer development. Telomerase activity is an immortalization marker that is found in most cancers and for which an association with an active cell cycle has been implicated. In the tissue of 106 human breast carcinomas, we analyzed the relationship between telomerase activity levels and defects in the cell cycle machinery with a focus on the retinoblastoma protein (pRB) pathway(s). The fraction of telomerase-positive tumors was 85%, and large differences in telomerase activity were found. Overexpression of cyclin D1 and/or cyclin E, in combination with a normal pRB, was a typical feature of tumors with high telomerase activity levels. Down-regulation of p16(INK4) was not related per se to telomerase activity, but tumors with low p16(INK4) in combination with cyclin D1 or E overexpression demonstrated high activity. Tumor cell proliferation, determined by Ki-67 expression, correlated significantly to telomerase activity levels. There was, however, not a strict association between proliferation rate and telomerase activity, because tumors with inactivated pRB had the highest Ki-67 fractions but intermediate telomerase activity. Also, cyclin D1 overexpression was associated with high telomerase levels without an increase in tumor cell proliferation. The present study indicates that telomerase activation occurs preferentially in breast cancers with certain cell cycle regulatory defects and that telomerase activity levels may depend on the specific defect(s).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)549-554
    Number of pages5
    JournalCancer Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


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