Telomerase – a universal cancer target for immunotherapeutic vaccines
In this article, Dr Jens Bjørheim, Chief Medical Officer of Ultimovacs, explains why vaccination has proved the best strategy to target human telomerase and why this complex may be an effective approach to combat cancer.
Since the discovery of telomerase in 1994,1 the enzyme has been viewed as a highly attractive target for the development of potential cancer therapeutics. It is expressed broadly across cancer types, fulfils a function essential in rapidly growing cells and is largely quiescent in most normal human tissues. However, small molecules, RNA‑based drugs and other direct molecular approaches have met with limited success. Vaccination approaches meanwhile have fared much better, entering multiple human studies – albeit thus far they have demonstrated only modest benefits. Despite this, the combination of new generation antitelomerase vaccines with check-point inhibitors is starting to reignite interest in telomerase as a target.