Background: Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein complex responsible for de novo telomere synthesis and addition of telomeric repeats to existing telomeres. Telomerase activity can be measured in vitro by using the telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP). Method: The study was done to investigate the presence of telomerase activity in oral leukoplakia (OL) and oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) by TRAP assay. Result: Telomerase activity was detectable in 18 of 20 human OSCC and 7 of 20 OL tissues. The expression of telomerase in the premalignant lesions was associated with phenotypic progression, the degree of dysplasia. Conclusion: These results indicate that telomerase is activated frequently during the late stage of oral premalignancy and may play a crucial role in OSCC.
Key words: Biomarker, squamous cell carcinoma, telomerase, telomere.