The current role of telomerase in the diagnosis of bladder cancer

Rosella Silvestrini, Sara Bravaccini, Valentina Casadio, Dino Amadori, Daniele Calistri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bladder cancer has an incidence of 15 cases per 100,000 persons in the global population and is the most common tumor of the urinary tract. Imaging techniques, cytoscopy, and cytology are either invasive or not sufficiently accurate to detect early stage tumors, and the need for new diagnostic markers still remains. Among the markers most recently proposed to improve diagnostic accuracy and especially sensitivity, increasing attention has been focused on the role of the ribonucleoprotein, telomerase. Relevant papers on the etiology, diagnosis, and evaluation of bladder cancer using telomerase in urine were searched for and considered. The PubMed search was performed using the text terms "bladder cancer", "diagnosis", and "telomerase". Previous studies have shown that the quantitative Telomerase Repeat Amplification Protocol (TRAP) assay performed in voided urine is an important non-invasive tool for the diagnosis of bladder tumors since it has very high sensitivity and specificity, even for early stage and low grade tumors. The main limitation of this test is the rate of false positive results due to the presence of inflammatory or non-tumor cells (i.e., epithelial cells from the lower genital tract), which express telomerase activity (TA). Consequently, an in situ analysis would seem to be important to identify the nature of telomerase-positive cells. Immunocytochemical detection of the hTERT subunit by a specific antibody seemed to open up the possibility to identify different cellular components of urine. However, the lack of a strict relationship between hTERT protein expression and telomerase activity has, to a certain extent, made this approach less relevant. In conclusion, telomerase activity in urine determined by TRAP seems to be marker of great potential, even more advantageous in cost/benefit terms when used in selected symptomatic patients or professionally high-risk subgroups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
JournalIndian Journal of Urology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Bladder cancer
  • Early diagnosis
  • Telomerase
  • Telomerase repeat amplification protocol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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