Desmoplastic reaction influences pancreatic cancer growth behavior

World J Surg. 2004 Aug;28(8):818-25. doi: 10.1007/s00268-004-7147-4. Epub 2004 Aug 3.


Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), which is regulated by transforming growth factor-ss (TGFss), has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of fibrotic diseases and tumor stroma. Inasmuch as generation of desmoplastic tissue is characteristic for pancreatic cancer, it is not known whether it gives pancreatic cancer cells a growth advantage or is a reaction of the body to inhibit cancer cell progression. In the present study we analyzed the expression and localization of CTGF and evaluated whether it influences the prognosis of pancreas cancer. Tissue samples were obtained from 25 individuals (6 women, 19 men) undergoing pancreatic resection for pancreatic cancer. Tissue samples from 13 previously healthy organ donors (5 women, 8 men) served as controls. Expression of CTGF was studied by Northern blot analysis. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry localized the respective mRNA moieties and proteins in the tissue samples. Northern blot analysis revealed that pancreatic cancer tissue samples exhibited a 46-fold increase in CTGF mRNA expression ( p < 0.001) over that of normal controls. In vitro studies confirmed that pancreatic stellate cells are the major source of CTGF mRNA expression and revealed a large variance in basal and TGFss-induced CTGF expression in cultured pancreatic cancer cells. This could also be confirmed by in situ hybridization, indicating that CTGF mRNA signals were located principally in fibroblasts, with only weak signals in the cancer cells. High CTGF mRNA levels in the tissue samples correlated with better tumor differentiation ( p < 0.03). In addition, patients whose tumors exhibited high CTGF mRNA levels (> onefold increase above normal controls) lived significantly longer than those whose tumors expressed low CTGF mRNA levels (none to onefold) ( p < 0.04 multivariate analysis). Our present data indicate that CTGF, as a downstream mediator of TGFss, is overexpressed in connective tissue cells and to a lesser extent in pancreatic cancer cells. Because patients with high CTGF mRNA expression levels have a better prognosis, our findings indicate that the desmoplastic reaction provides a growth disadvantage for pancreatic cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Aged
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology*
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibrosis
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immediate-Early Proteins / genetics*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Pancreas / pathology*
  • Pancreatectomy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Survival Analysis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / pathology


  • CCN2 protein, human
  • Immediate-Early Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Connective Tissue Growth Factor