Background. Telomerase activity has been found to be associated with many cancers, including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). We examined the association of telomerase activity with the clinical outcome of patients with HNSCC. Methods. A PCR-based enzyme immunoassay method was used to measure telomerase activity in 217 matched (grossly normal and cancerous) tissues from patients with HNSCC. Pearson chi-square test was used to analyze the correlation of telomerase activity with clinicopathologic parameters. Kaplan-Meier method and Cox logistic regression model were used for prognostic analysis. Results. Of the 217 tissues assayed, 4.1% of the normal and 63.3% of the cancer tissues had high levels of telomerase activity. Telomerase activity was shown to be statistically correlated with extracapsule spreading (ECS) of lymph nodes (p =.005) and overall survival (p =.003). On multivariant analysis, overall stage (p = .007), tumor depth (p = .045), and telomerase activity (p = .008) showed independent variables associated with poor survival. Conclusions. Telomerase activity has been shown to be an independent prognostic factor for survival in cases of HNSCC. Telomerase may be a potential molecular target for clinical use in prognostication and therapy in cases of the disease.
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