Measurement of telomerase activity is a promising diagnostic tool for pancreatic cancer. Detection of mRNA for human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), a catalytic subunit of telomerase, is also a diagnostic candidate. In the present study, we developed a telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay with real-time PCR and a protocol for quantification of hTERT mRNA with real-time PCR. To evaluate the feasibility of these methods for diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, we measured telomerase activity and hTERT expression in pancreatic cancer cell lines, pancreatic tissues, and pancreatic juice samples from patients with different pancreatic diseases. There were significant correlations between telomerase activity and hTERT expression in cell lines, tissues, and juice samples. The levels of telomerase activity and hTERT expression were significantly higher in tumoral tissues than in nontumoral tissues. In pancreatic juice specimens, some carcinoma samples showed remarkably high expression of hTERT. However, there were no significant differences in hTERT expression between patients with carcinoma and those with benign diseases, although significant differences in telomerase activity were observed. Our present results suggest that the combined assessment of hTERT and telomerase activities in pancreatic juice provides a potent diagnostic method for pancreatic cancer.
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