Telomerase and Telomeres Biology in Thyroid Cancer

Benedetta Donati, Alessia Ciarrocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Telomere and telomerase regulation contributes to the onset and evolution of several tumors, including highly aggressive thyroid cancers (TCs). TCs are the most common endocrine malignancies and are generally characterized by a high rate of curability. However, a small but significant percentage develops distant metastasis or progresses into undifferentiated forms associated with bad prognosis and for which poor therapeutic options are available. Mutations in telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) promoter are among the most credited prognostic marker of aggressiveness in TCs. Indeed, their frequency progressively increases passing from indolent lesions to aggressive and anaplastic forms. TERT promoter mutations create binding sites for transcription factors, increasing TERT expression and telomerase activity. Furthermore, aggressiveness of TCs is associated with TERT locus amplification. These data encourage investigating telomerase regulating pathways as relevant drivers of TC development and progression to foster the identification of new therapeutics targets. Here, we summarize the current knowledge about telomere regulation and TCs, exploring both canonical and less conventional pathways. We discuss the possible role of telomere homeostasis in mediating response to cancer therapies and the possibility of using epigenetic drugs to re-evaluate the use of telomerase inhibitors. Combined treatments could be of support to currently used therapies still presenting weaknesses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2887
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 13 2019


  • BRD4
  • combined therapies
  • EMT
  • epigenetic drugs
  • telomerase
  • telomeres
  • TERT promoter
  • thyroid cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry

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