Clinical potential of microRNAs in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Pancreas. 2011 Nov;40(8):1165-71. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0b013e3182218ffb.


Objectives: Aggressive invasion and early metastases are characteristic features of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). More than 90% of patients have surgically nonresectable disease at presentation. Despite increasing knowledge of the genetics of this complex disease, systemic therapies, particularly gemcitabine, have modest clinical benefit and marginal survival advantage. MicroRNAs have been shown to have a role in oncogenesis, invasion, and metastases via epigenetic posttranscriptional gene regulation. Our objective was to discuss the clinical impact of microRNAs within PDAC.

Methods: This review details the understanding of microRNAs to date and explores the clinical utility of microRNAs in PDAC.

Results: Recent studies have focused on the impact of microRNA expression in PDAC, many of which have shown the diagnostic, predictive, and prognostic utility of microRNA profiling in PDAC identifying numerous potential targets including miR-21, miR-196a, and miR-217.

Conclusions: MicroRNA stability in body fluid and tissue samples makes this area one of the most promising for earlier detection of PDAC. Indeed, microRNAs may in the future serve as a long-awaited screening tool for PDAC. Furthermore, microRNA expression profiling in PDAC may be incorporated into modern treatment algorithms to enhance therapeutic management. Equally as exciting is the potential for novel therapeutics directed against these important disease mediators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis


  • MIRN196 microRNA, human
  • MIRN21 microRNA, human
  • MIRN217 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs