Background and aims: Pancreatic cancer cells have been shown to possess stem-cell-like properties, especially by reactivating embryonic transcription factors involved in tissue differentiation. We therefore investigated if and to what extent developmental genes of the human pancreas are expressed in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas and precursor lesions, pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), and if this correlates or predicts response to treatment and overall survival.
Material and methods: Invasive ductal adenocarcinomas of the pancreas [UICC pT3pN0 (n = 13) vs. pT3pN1 (n = 25)] and tumors after neoadjuvant chemotherapy [5-fluorouracil (FU)/folic-acid and gemcitabine; UICC ypN0 (n = 7) vs. ypN1 (n = 6)] resected between 1997 and 2003 were characterized histochemically and immunohistochemically [pancreas duodenum homeobox 1 (PDX-1), Sonic hedgehog protein (SHH), Patched (Ptc) and Gli-1]. Gene distribution was compared with morphological patterns of the pancreatic carcinoma and PanIN as well as with peritumorous reactions of normal pancreas.
Results: The overall expression of PDX-1, SHH, Ptc and Gli-1 was low, but showed a distinctive and topographic linkage inside pancreatic carcinomas as well as inside PanINs. Additionally, a topographic and significant association of these markers with nodal status (PDX-1, Ptc, Gli-1), tumor size (PDX-1, Gli-1) and R status (PDX-1) was found. After stratification with the strongest outcome predictor, grading, survival analysis revealed that Ptc expression in grade 2 and PDX-1 expression in grade 3 carcinomas are independent survival factors.
Conclusions: Markers of pancreas development are reexpressed in invasive ductal adenocarcinomas and their expression is essentially associated with general clinical and pathological features such as survival or nodal status.
Copyright 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel and IAP.