Contribution of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer stem cells to pancreatic cancer progression

J Surg Res. 2012 Mar;173(1):105-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2011.09.020. Epub 2011 Oct 8.


Pancreatic adenocarcinoma remains among the most lethal of human malignancies. Overall 5-y survival is less than 5%, and only 20% of patients presenting with localized disease amenable to surgical resection. Even in patients who undergo resection, long-term survival remains extremely poor. A major contributor to the aggressiveness of multiple cancers, and pancreatic cancer in particular, is the process of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). This review highlights the growing evidence of EMT in pancreatic cancer progression, focusing on the contribution of EMT to the development of cancer stem cells and on interaction of EMT with other pathways central to cancer progression, such as Hedgehog signaling, the K-ras oncogene, and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β). We will also discuss EMT-targeting agents currently in development and in clinical trials that may help to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / physiology*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta