Defects in telomere maintenance can result in telomere fusions that likely play a causative role in carcinogenesis by promoting genomic instability. However, this proposition remains to be fully understood in human colon carcinogenesis. In the present study, the temporal sequence of telomere dysfunction dynamics was delineated by analyzing telomere fusion, telomere length, telomerase activity, hotspot mutations in KRAS or BRAF, and TP53 of tissue samples obtained from 18 colon cancer patients. Our results revealed that both the deficiency of p53 and the shortening of mean telomere length were not necessary for producing telomere fusions in colon tissue. In five cases, telomere fusion was observed even in tissue adjacent to cancerous lesions, suggesting that genomic instability is initiated in pathologically non-cancerous lesions. The extent of mean telomere attrition increased with lymph node invasiveness of tumors, implying that mean telomere shortening correlates with colon cancer progression. Telomerase activity was relatively higher in most cancer tissues containing mutation(s) in KRAS or BRAF and/or TP53 compared to those without these hotspot mutations, suggesting that telomerase could become fully active at the late stage of colon cancer development. Interestingly, the majority of telomere fusion junctions in colon cancer appeared to be a chromatid-type containing chromosome 7q or 12q. In sum, this meticulous correlative study not only highlights the concept that telomere fusion is present in the early stages of cancer regardless of TP53/KRAS mutation status, mean telomere length, and telomerase activity, but also provides additional insights targeting key telomere fusion junctions which may have significant implications for colon cancer diagnoses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research