How cancer cells can become immortal? New research finds a mutated gene

A defining characteristic of cancer cells is their immortality. Normal cells usually have a limited number of times they can divide before they stop growing. Cancer cells, however, can overcome this limitation to form tumors and avoid “mortality” by continuing to replicate.

Melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of skin cancer. Dlumen/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Telomeres they play an essential role in determining how many times a cell can divide. These repetitive DNA sequences are located at the ends of chromosomes, structures that contain genetic information. In normal cells, continuous rounds of replication shorten telomeres until they become so short that they eventually cause the cell to stop replicating. Instead, tumor cells can maintain the length of their telomeres by activating an enzyme called telomerase that rebuilds telomeres during each replication.

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