Introduction: Cyclooxygenase enzymes catalyze a critical step in the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins, which are important mediators of acute and chronic inflammation. The constitutively expressed cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) appears to regulate many normal physiologic functions in several cell types, whereas the inducible cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme mediates the inflammatory response.
Aims and methodology: We investigated the expression of COX-2 in tissues of 35 patients with chronic pancreatitis, 6 patients with pancreatic cancer, and 5 control patients by immunohistochemical analysis and correlations to clinicopathologic features.
Results: We found an overexpression of COX-2 in the atrophic acinar cells (80% of patients), hyperplastic ductal cells (86% of patients), and islets cells (97% of patients) but not in normal pancreatic tissues. The COX-2 overexpression in the tissue of patients with chronic pancreatitis was significantly correlated with the frequency of acute attacks of pancreatitis. Tissue from patients who had more than five acute attacks of pancreatitis (n = 10) exhibited COX-2 immunoreactivity of a significantly higher score in atrophic acinar cells (p = 0.004). No correlation could be found with other examined clinical features such as duration of the disease, diabetes, alcohol consumption, smoking, or pain.
Conclusion: Our results support the hypothesis that COX-2 may be involved in inflammatory responses in chronic pancreatitis and in the progression of this chronic inflammatory disease.