Vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGF-C) is a lymphangiogenic polypeptide that has been implicated in cancer growth. In this study, we characterized VEGF-C expression in cultured human pancreatic cancer cell lines and determined whether the presence of VEGF-C in human pancreatic cancers is associated with clinicopathologic characteristics. VEGF-C mRNA transcripts were present in all five tested cell lines (Capan-1, MIA-PaCa-2, PANC-1, COLO-357, and T3M4). Immunoblotting with a highly specific anti-VEGF-C antibody revealed the presence of VEGF-C protein in all the cell lines. Northern blot analysis of total RNA revealed an approximately 2.2-fold increase in VEGF-C mRNA transcript in the cancer samples compared with the normal pancreas. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the expression of VEGF-C and its receptor flt-4 in the cancer cells within the tumor mass. Immunohistochemical analysis of 51 pancreatic cancer tissues revealed the presence of strong VEGF-C immunoreactivity in the cancer cells in 80.4% of the cancer tissues. The presence of VEGF-C in these cells was associated with increased lymphatic vessels invasion and lymph node metastasis, but not with decreased patient survival. These findings indicate that VEGF-C and its receptor are commonly overexpressed in human pancreatic cancers and that this factor may contribute to the lymphangiogenic process and metastasis in this disorder.