Amiya expressed the concern that any telomerase activator could be viewed as a potential cancer risk. Cancerous cells use telomerase to support the unlimited replication that characterizes cancer. The folks at Sierra Sciences openly recognize this concern, and give reasons why they believe it's a red herring, on this webpage:
In most cases (85–95%), cancers accomplish this indefinite cell division by turning on telomerase. For this reason, forcing telomerase to turn off throughout the body has been suggested as a cure for cancer, and there are several telomerase inhibitor drugs presently being tested in clinical trials.In support of this, they list several papers.
So, anti-aging scientists must be out of their minds to want to turn the telomerase gene on, right?
No! Although telomerase is necessary for cancers to extend their lifespan, telomerase does not cause cancer. This has been repeatedly demonstrated: at least seven assays for cancer have been performed on telomerase-positive human cells: the soft agar assay, the contact inhibition assay, the mouse xenograft assay, the karyotype assay, the serum inhibition assay, the gene expression assay, and the checkpoint analysis assay. All reported negative results...
Paradoxically, even though cells require telomerase to become dangerous cancers, turning on telomerase may actually prevent cancer. This is not just because the risk of chromosome rearrangements is reduced, but also because telomerase can extend the lifespan of our immune cells, improving their ability to seek out and destroy cancer cells.
- Jiang, X.-R. et al. Telomerase expression in human somatic cells does not induce changes associated with a transformed phenotype. Nature Genet., 21, 111–114 (1999)
- Morales, C.P., et. al. Absence of cancer-associated changes in human fibroblasts immortalized with telomerase. Nature Genet., 21, 115–118 (1999)
- Harley, C. B. Telomerase is not an oncogene. Oncogene 21(4): 494-502 (2002).