The development of malignant neoplasms is a multistep process and it is believed that multiple genetic alterations are involved. The progression of neoplastic lesions is also characterized by reactivation of telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein complex enzyme that adds telomere repeats at the ends of chromosomes. In view of the close association between telomerase and malignancy, this molecule may prove to be a useful marker for malignancy. This review focuses on the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of telomerase. The experimental data for telomerase assays with the potential for oral cancer detection and diagnosis are also reviewed.
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