Background/aims: The precise details of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) pathogenesis are still insufficiently known, requiring the use of high-throughput methods. However, PDAC is especially difficult to study using microarrays due to its strong desmoplastic reaction, which involves a hyperproliferating stroma that effectively "masks" the contribution of the minoritary neoplastic epithelial cells. Thus it is not clear which of the genes that have been found differentially expressed between normal and whole tumor tissues are due to the tumor epithelia and which simply reflect the differences in cellular composition. To address this problem, laser microdissection studies have been performed, but these have to deal with much smaller tissue sample quantities and therefore have significantly higher experimental noise.
Methodology: In this paper we combine our own large sample whole-tissue study with a previously published smaller sample microdissection study by Grützmann et al. to identify the genes that are specifically overexpressed in PDAC tumor epithelia.
Results: The overlap of this list of genes with other microarray studies of pancreatic cancer as well as with the published literature is impressive. Moreover, we find a number of genes whose over-expression appears to be inversely correlated with patient survival: keratin 7, laminin gamma 2, stratifin, platelet phosphofructokinase, annexin A2, MAP4K4 and OACT2 (MBOAT2), which are all specifically upregulated in the neoplastic epithelia, rather than the tumor stroma.
Conclusions: We improve on other microarray studies of PDAC by putting together the higher statistical power due to a larger number of samples with information about cell-type specific expression and patient survival.