Immortalizing the complexity of cancer metastasis: genetic features of lethal metastatic pancreatic cancer obtained from rapid autopsy

Cancer Biol Ther. 2005 May;4(5):548-54. doi: 10.4161/cbt.4.5.1663. Epub 2005 May 12.


The virtual lack of well-characterized metastatic pancreatic cancer tissues for study has limited systematic studies of the metastatic process of this deadly disease. To address this important issue, we have instituted a rapid autopsy protocol for the collection of high quality tissues from patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer, called the Gastrointestinal Cancer Rapid Medical Donation Program (GICRMDP). At the time of preparation of this manuscript, 20 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer and one patient with metastatic colon cancer have undergone a rapid autopsy in association with the GICRMDP. The average time interval achieved for these 21 patients was 8.0 hours, with more than 500 individual samples of matched high quality primary and metastatic pancreatic cancer tissues, peritoneal/pleural fluid and blood obtained so far. For the first four patients in which the autopsy was performed in <6 hours, we have successfully xenografted the primary tumor and/or two to four independent matched metastases from a variety of target organ sites, with a take rate of almost 60% for the first 26 xenografted tumors attempted. In an initial survey of KRAS2, TP53 and DPC4 genetic status in lethal metastatic pancreatic cancers, activating KRAS2 mutations were detected in 82% of cases and inactivating TP53 mutations in 55% of cases, consistent with rates of genetic alteration of these genes in early stage pancreatic cancers. However, DPC4 inactivation was found in 75% of patients analyzed, suggesting that genetic inactivation of the DPC4 tumor suppressor gene continues to be selected for with growth at the primary site and metastatic spread to other organs. The invaluable tissue resources generated by the success of the GICRMDP will provide an unparalleled resource for study of metastatic pancreatic cancer and of the metastatic process in general.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Autopsy
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Microdissection
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Smad4 Protein / genetics*
  • Time Factors
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • ras Proteins


  • KRAS protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • SMAD4 protein, human
  • Smad4 Protein
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins