Multiple roles of mucins in pancreatic cancer, a lethal and challenging malignancy

Br J Cancer. 2004 Nov 1;91(9):1633-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6602163.


Mucins are members of an expanding family of large multifunctional glycoproteins. Pancreatic mucins have important biological functions, including the protection, lubrication, and moisturisation of the surfaces of epithelial tissues lining ductal structures within the pancreas. Several lines of evidence support the notion that deregulated mucin production is a hallmark of inflammatory and neoplastic disorders of the pancreas. Herein, we discuss the factors that contribute to the lethality of pancreatic cancer as well as the key role played by mucins, particularly MUC1 and MUC4, in the development and progression of the disease. Aspects pertaining to the aberrant expression and glycosylation of mucins are discussed, with special emphasis on their potential impact on the design and implementation of adequate diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for combating this lethal malignancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Mucin-1 / physiology*
  • Mucin-4
  • Mucins / physiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / therapy


  • MUC4 protein, human
  • Mucin-1
  • Mucin-4
  • Mucins