Cellular senescence is a state of cell cycle arrest characterized by a distinct morphology, gene expression pattern, and secretory phenotype. It can be triggered by multiple mechanisms, including those involved in telomere shortening, the accumulation of DNA damage, epigenetic pathways, and the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), and so on. In current cancer therapy, cellular senescence has emerged as a potent tumor suppression mechanism that restrains proliferation in cells at risk for malignant transformation. Therefore, compounds that stimulate the growth inhibition effects of senescence while limiting its detrimental effects are believed to have great clinical potential. In this review article, we first review the current knowledge of the pro- and antitumorigeneic functions of senescence and summarize the key roles of telomerase in the regulation of senescence in tumors. Second, we review the current literature regarding the anticancer effects of stilbene compounds that are mediated by the targeting of telomerase and cell senescence. Finally, we provide future perspectives on the clinical utilization of stilbene compounds, especially resveratrol and pterostilbene, as novel cancer therapeutic remedies. We conclude and propose that stilbene compounds may induce senescence and may potentially be used as the therapeutic or adjuvant agents for cancers with high telomerase activity.
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