Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) copy number gain is frequently observed in Asian melanoma patients. Here, we explored the correlation between TERT copy number and the effect of telomerase inhibitors in melanoma. A total of 78 melanoma cases were enrolled in the study. The TERT copy number was examined by QuantiGene Plex DNA assay. The sensitivity to telomerase inhibitors was evaluated in cell lines and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models with or without TERT copy number gain. Among the 78 patients, 33.3% showed TERT copy number gain, and the incidence of this gain in acral melanoma (61.5%) was higher than that in other melanoma subtypes (P=0.02). The telomerase inhibitors 6-thio-2′-deoxyguanosine (6-Thio-dG) and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) inhibited cell viability and repressed tumor growth in PDX models with TERT copy number gain. TERT copy number gain is frequently observed in Chinese patients with melanoma. Targeting telomerase may benefit melanoma patients with TERT copy number gain.

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