Telomeres are repeated DNA sequences that protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres shorten over time and ultimately signal cellular senescence. Telomere length has two potential roles in carcinogenesis: critically short telomeres can lead to genomic instability that may initiate tumor formation; and the maintenance of telomere length by telomerase allows cells to become immortalized.
Using stored specimens from a large ongoing population-based case-control study, we will examine whether risk of ovarian cancer is increased in women with shorter telomeres and whether risk is influenced by variation in telomere stability genes such as TERT, which encodes the catalytic subunit of telomerase.
Kathryn Terry, ScD is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research on genetic susceptibility to ovarian cancer has focused on hormone receptors, the insulin-like growth factor pathway, and genes involved in telomere maintenance. She received her epidemiologic training at the Harvard School of Public Health and did her postdoctoral research at the Channing Laboratory, working on the Nurse’s Health Study. She continues her ovarian cancer research at the Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital using data from the New England Case-Control study.