Activation of telomerase and stabilization of telomeres are thought to be required for cellular immortality and oncogenesis. Telomerase activity is detected in >90% of various cancers, including urothelial cancers. Of the three subunits comprising telomerase complex, human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) is a rate-limiting determinant of the enzymatic activity of telomerase. In the present study, spontaneously voided urine specimens from 33 patients with bladder cancer and 26 without bladder lesions were examined for the expression of hTERT mRNA, and the usefulness of detecting hTERT mRNA in urine samples for screening of bladder cancer was evaluated. RT-PCR analysis revealed that approximately 80% of urinary sediments from patients with bladder cancer expressed hTERT mRNA, regardless of clinical stage or pathological grade, whereas only 4% of sediments from patients without urothelial lesions did. Interestingly, hTERT mRNA expression was observed, even in some urine samples from bladder cancer patients with negative urinary cytology. These findings suggest that the expression of hTERT in urine sample may be a useful diagnostic marker for bladder cancer.

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