Re: Telomerase and cancer

Natasha Vita-More (
Tue, 07 Dec 1999 20:00:36 -0800

At 01:02 PM 12/7/99 -0500, John wrote:

>The stock of Geron jumped by 48% this morning. In today's issue of
>The Proceedings Of The national Academy Of Science researchers
>from that company wrote an article that shows that "inhibitors of
>telomerase can remortalize human cancer cells", in other words,
>they can make cancer die of old age, at least in the lab.

This is great news! The Motley Fool Web ( site covers it at their Lunchtime News release:

An Investment Opinion
by Alex Schay

Replicating Higher

Geron Corp. (Nasdaq: GERN), a developer of therapeutic and diagnostic products based on the biological mechanisms underlying cancer and other age-related diseases, replicated $2 9/16 higher to $12 5/16 this morning. After the bell yesterday, the firm announced the upcoming publication of two papers -- for the January 1, 1999 issue of Nature Genetics -- displaying evidence that "telomerase expression in normal cells confers an infinite replicative capacity, but does not result in cellular changes associated with cancer."

Under normal circumstances, human cells divide roughly 75 times over a lifetime (depending on the type of cell). However, each time a cell divides, the "telomere" -- or the protective end of a chromosome -- erodes a little bit. In conjunction with old age and eventual death, the telomere becomes too short to protect the chromosome and the cell can no longer divide. By adulthood, most healthy cells no longer contain any telomerase. It has also been found that 90% of cancer cells have telomerase, raising suspicions that telomerase is somehow linked to cancer as well.

Back in January, Geron's biologists announced a ground-breaking finding. While all cells possess the telomerase gene, which can restore the telomeres to their youthful length, in most cells the gene is inactive. Geron's discovery was that by inserting a copy of the telomerase gene in active form into cells, it could make them grow and divide indefinitely. The problem posed by the discovery was the possibility that the enzyme could cause cancer by allowing cell division to go crazy.

Yesterday's announcement by Geron will undoubtedly lead to closer scrutiny of the findings, but it has given Geron a proverbial shot in the arm. Yes, Geron lost $5.7 million in cash from operations over the first nine months of the year. No, the discussion to date has yet to veer into the realm of applications for "immortalizing" cells. However, this finding and the recent cash infusion from the sale of $15 million in convertible zero debentures to investment funds should help meet Geron's working capital needs. The visibility of the announcement will also help Geron shift the discussion toward finding solutions for the more immediate problem of the two dozen degenerative diseases that currently have no treatment."