Alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) influences survival in soft tissue sarcomas: A systematic review with meta-analysis

Rita T. Lawlor, Nicola Veronese, Antonio Pea, Alessia Nottegar, Lee Smith, Camilla Pilati, Jacopo Demurtas, Matteo Fassan, Liang Cheng, Claudio Luchini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) is a telomerase-independent mechanism used by a broad range of neoplasms to maintain telomere length, permitting uncontrolled replication during their progression. ALT has been described in different types of sarcoma, but a comprehensive analysis of its clinical significance is still lacking. Therefore, we provide here the first meta-analysis on this topic. Methods: We searched SCOPUS and PubMed through July 2018 to identify all studies that investigated the prognostic role of ALT in sarcomas. We considered the risk of death (risk ratio, RR) calculated as the number of death vs. total participants during follow-up in ALT+ versus ALT- patients as the primary outcome. The secondary outcome was the hazard ratio (HR), adjusted for the maximum number of covariates available, using ALT- patients as reference. Results: Eight articles comprising a total of 551 patients with sarcomas (226 ALT+ and 325 ALT-) were selected. The ALT+ group showed a higher mitotic count and a higher tumor grade compared with the ALT- group (p < 0.01). Furthermore, we demonstrate a strong impact of ALT on survival. In fact, ALT+ patients showed a statistically significant higher risk of death than ALT- patients, when also considering data from multivariate analyses (RR = 1.50; 95% CI: 1.15-1.96; p = 0.003; HR = 2.02; 95% CI: 1.22-3.38; p = 0.007). Conclusions: Our results indicate that ALT is associated with an increased risk of death in patients with sarcoma. In these neoplasms, ALT should be taken into account for a precise prognostic stratification and design of potential therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number232
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 14 2019


  • ALT
  • ATR
  • ATRX
  • Mesenchymal
  • Prognosis
  • Sarcoma
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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