Telomerase Inhibition

Changing the course of blood cancers through telomerase inhibition

Geron is tirelessly pursuing blood cancer treatments with the potential to extend and enhance lives. Our first-in-class telomerase inhibitor, imetelstat, harnesses Nobel Prize-winning science in a treatment that may alter the underlying drivers of disease.

Our beginnings in telomere science

Telomerase inhibition is grounded in decades of research, but Geron is the only company advancing this technology in a first-in-class investigational drug, imetelstat, as a treatment for patients.

Imetelstat was built upon discoveries that expanded the understanding of the role of telomeres and telomerase in highly proliferative diseases such as cancer. For these discoveries, early Geron collaborators Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak were awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

The role of telomeres in cell division

Telomerase graphic

In the human body, normal growth and maintenance of tissues occurs by cell division. However, most cells are only able to divide a limited number of times, and this number of divisions is regulated by the length of telomeres, which are repetitions of a DNA sequence located at the end of chromosomes. Normally, every time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten. Eventually, they shrink to a critically short length, which prevents it from further cell division or leads to cell death (apoptosis).

A key molecular target in oncology

Telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme that maintains telomeres and prevents them from shortening during cell division. Telomerase is upregulated in many malignant stem and progenitor cells, enabling the continued and uncontrolled proliferation of those malignant cells, driving tumor growth and progression. Telomerase expression has been found to be present in approximately 90% of biopsies taken from a broad range of human cancers. Thus, we believe that telomerase is a key molecular target in oncology.

Successfully targeting telomerase with imetelstat

Geron was the first company to develop a drug, imetelstat, to inhibit telomerase, potentially giving patients and providers a powerful new weapon in the fight against blood cancers.