Starr collaboration illuminates mysterious pathway to immortality in cancer cells
July 24, 2012
Cancer cells are immortal because they circumvent failsafe mechanisms that stop out-of-control cell proliferation. One of these mechanisms – the progressive shortening of chromosomes – is prevented by replenishment of telomeres, the protective elements at the ends of chromosomes. Most cancer cells do this with an enzyme called telomerase, but approximately 10 to 15 percent of human cancers use a different pathway called ALT (alternative lengthening of telomeres). Whether or not a tumor has ALT makes a difference. For example, people with glioblastoma live twice as long if the tumor uses ALT.