Telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that adds hexameric TTAGGG nucleotide repeats onto telomeres is reactivated in most malignancies. Lung cancer is a common malignant disease worldwide as well as in India. Most patients present in advanced stages. As noninvasive diagnostic techniques are preferred, we assayed the telomerase activity in pre-bronchoscopy sputum and compared it with that of bronchial washings and bronchoscopic biopsies by telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) in 53 cases of lung cancer. These were corroborated with cytopathological/histopathological examinations. Telomerase activity was detected in 58.5% of sputum samples, 70% of bronchial washings and 74% of bronchoscopic biopsies thereby making it a good noninvasive diagnostic marker of lung cancer.
Cervical cancer is the 7th most common cancer worldwide, with 100,000 new cases being reported annually in India. It is routinely screened by Papanicolaou's (Pap) smear. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is one of its etiological agents. We have assayed telomerase activity in relation to HPV-16/18 in cervical samples from 93 subjects ranging from normal to precancerous to frank cancers in tissue biopsies and cervical scrapings. HPV infection was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 81% of tumor samples, in 6% of control hysterectomy samples and in 2% of cervical scrapings of normal healthy controls with HPV-16 being the predominant type. Telomerase activity was detected in 96.5% of cervical tumor samples, in 68.7% of premalignant cervical scrapings but was not detected in control hysterectomy samples, or in cervical scrapings of normal healthy controls. There was 71% correlation between telomerase activity and HPV-16/18 infection.
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