Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a heterogeneous, highly aggressive primary brain tumor with strongly variable patient survival. Because reliable prognostic biomarkers are lacking, we investigated the relation between telomerase-associated parameters and the disease course.
Telomerase-associated parameters were determined in 100 GBM tissues and associated with clinical characteristics and overall survival. Expressions of telomere length, telomerase activity (TA), and human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) were analyzed by quantitative PCR, telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay, and reverse transcriptase–PCR, respectively. Mutation status of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH)1 was determined by direct sequencing, and O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter methylation by methylation-specific PCR.
Of 100 GBM tissues, 61 were positive for both hTERT mRNA and TA, with a highly significant correlation between both parameters (linear regression, P < .0001). Telomere length determination revealed a significant difference between the hTERT/TA-positive and -negative subgroups, with markedly longer telomeres in the hTERT/TA-negative cohort (unpaired Student's t-test, P = .0001). Accordingly, significantly shorter telomeres were detected in GBM tissues derived from older patients (>60 y at diagnosis, P < .0001). While no association of telomere parameters with MGMT promoter status was found, all tumors with IDH1 mutation (6/100) were negative for both hTERT expression and TA and harbored significantly longer telomeres. Patients with tumors lacking hTERT expression/TA showed a significant survival benefit (Kaplan–Meier test, both P < .01), which, however, was based exclusively on the younger patient subgroup (≤60 y, both P < .005; >60 y, both ns).
Telomerase activation is not an independent prognostic parameter in GBM but predicts aggressive tumor behavior solely in a younger patient cohort.