7. Telomere fusions in early human breast carcinoma

Tanaka, H., et al., 2012

Scientists have been examining telomeres as a way to see how cancer starts. Telomeres are part of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes from becoming damaged. Each time a cell divides, telomeres become slightly shorter and may not perform theses tasks as well. They also may fuse, and this may prompt mutations that could lead to the formation of cancer.

In this study, researchers wanted to look at telomere dysfunction in human solid tumors, specifically breast cancer, to see what part telomere fusion play in this genomic change.


Scientists devised a test to detect and analyze telomere fusion in breast cancer tumor tissue. They used normal breast tissue samples from the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank at IU Simon Cancer Center and human breast cancer tissue samples from the Cancer Center at IU. Genomic DNA was extracted from the samples and examined.


The researchers reported that telomere fusions accumulate in early stage of breast cancer and remain at similar levels in more advanced stages. They found no telomere fusions in the normal tissue samples from KTB donors. They concluded that telomere dysfunction is prevalent during breast cancer formation, and telomere fusion may be the cause of genomic change.

Why this study is important:

This study is one of several that shed light on how cancer forms, specifically by looking at how telomeres affect genetic stability. The researchers’ analysis tools could be used in the future to develop early detection methods.