These are the three words that are suppose to make Geron successful and a stock worth holding. I am not smart enough to know how these ideas fit together, but I believe they do.
Imetelstat effects telemeres size, which in turn effects cetain blood cancers and likely some solid cancers. The whole idea of "immortal cells" , cancer cells and human stem cells are tied to the foundations of life. There is a huge amount to learn, and I think Geron has opened the door. As far as I can tell, GE also thinks so, and has invested in Geron's future.
Imetelstat is the first breakthough of, hopefully, many to come.
As a cell begins to become cancerous, it divides more often and its telomeres become very short. If its telomeres get too short, the cell may die. It can escape this fate by up-regulating an enzyme called telomerase, which can prevent telomeres from getting shorter and even elongate them.
Studies have found shortened telomeres in many cancers, including pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney, and head and neck. In addition, people with many types of cancer have been found to possess shorter leukocyte telomeres than healthy controls.
Cancer cells require a mechanism to maintain their telomeric DNA in order to continue dividing indefinitely (immortalization). A mechanism for telomere elongation or maintenance is one of the key steps in cellular immortalization and can be used as a diagnostic marker in the clinic. Telomerase, the enzyme complex responsible for elongating telomeres, is activated in approximately 90% of tumors. However, a sizeable fraction of cancerous cells employ alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT), a non-conservative telomere lengthening pathway involving the transfer of telomere tandem repeats between sister-chromatids.
Telomerase is the natural enzyme that promotes telomere repair. It is active in stem cells, germ cells, hair follicles, and 90 percent of cancer cells, but its expression is low or absent in somatic cells. Telomerase functions by adding bases to the ends of the telomeres. Cells with sufficient telomerase activity are considered immortal in the sense that they can divide past the Hayflick limit without entering senescence or apoptosis. For this reason, telomerase is viewed as a potential target for anti-cancer drugs (such as telomestatin).
Studies using knockout mice have demonstrated that the role of telomeres in cancer can both be limiting to tumor growth, as well as promote tumorigenesis, depending on the cell type and genomic context.
imetelstat is a man made "short chain" of molecules. this short chain is a strand of DNA. telomerase is an enzyme. cancer cells contain large amounts of this enzyme. telemeres feed off of this enzyme. imetelstat attaches to the telomerase enzyme and this bond prevents short length telemeres from consuming this enzyme. without the needed telomerase enzyme to feed on these telemeres starve to death and thus kills the cancer cell.
the key to this action is the length of the telemeres. the shorter the length the more effective imetelstat is in inhibiting cancer cells. in fact, imetelstat has been shown to be amazingly effective against cancers with the shortest of telemeres—hematological cancers.
as presented at the december ASH meeting, "The data suggest that imetelstat has a relatively selective inhibitory effect on the growth of the neoplastic clone(s) which drive myeloproliferative neoplasms such as ET and has the potential to modify the underlying biology of the disease. Current ET treatments can be effective in reducing platelet counts in patients, but they do not alter the underlying biology of the disease, and clinical resistance or intolerance to these agents occurs in a proportion of patients."
Professor Elizabeth Blackburn who co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes telomeres has created a company — Telome Health, Inc. — along with former geron vice president of reasearch Calvin Harley. THI will provide telomere length data from tissue samples for academic research, pharmaceutical drug development, and health monitoring.