Skip to Content

Telomere Length and Risk of Cancer and Related Diseases

Telomere length in non-cancer tissues, such as blood or buccal cells, has been associated with cancer and other diseases. This research area seeks to further understand these associations. For example, DCEG's case-control study of ovarian cancer suggested that short telomeres are associated with increased risk. However, a prospective cohort study of prostate cancer did not find an association between prostate cancer and telomere length. It did find that longer telomeres were associated with a healthy lifestyle. Numerous collaborative studies of telomere length as a cancer biomarker are ongoing. 

Investigators from the Clinical Genetics Branch are conducting a study of telomere length and outcomes after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for severe aplastic anemia in collaboration with the National Marrow Donor Program and NICHD. Analyses are underway and seek to understand the prevalence of occult DC in severe aplastic anemia patients and the connection between telomere length and risk of HSCT complications.

Novel genetic determinants of telomere length

The same subjects included in the analysis of telomere length in prostate cancer described above were also part of a genome-wide association study part of the Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) project. In collaboration with Drs. Immaculata DeVivo and David Hunter (Harvard School of Public Health), CGB investigators will add to these normal men 1,200 healthy controls from the Nurses' Health Study, who were part of the CGEMS breast cancer whole-genome scan. Investigators are evaluating the relationship between genetic variants measured on the same genomics platform in the CGEMS GWAS and telomere length (measured in the same laboratory) among healthy controls: 1200 men and 1200 women. Lastly, interactions between genotypes affecting telomere length will be assessed in the prostate cancer cases and controls.

For more information, contact Sharon Savage.

Clinical Genetics Branch - Research Areas