Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a heterogeneous cancer in which differences in survival rates might be related to a variety in gene expression profiles. Although the molecular biology of PDAC begins to be revealed, genes or pathways that specifically drive tumour progression or metastasis are not well understood.
Methods: We performed microarray analyses on whole-tumour samples of 2 human PDAC subpopulations with similar clinicopathological features, but extremely distinct survival rates after potentially curative surgery, i.e. good outcome (OS and DFS > 50 months, n = 7) versus bad outcome (OS < 19 months and DFS < 7 months, n = 10). Additionally, liver- and peritoneal metastases were analysed and compared to primary cancer tissue (n = 11).
Results: The integrin and ephrin receptor families were upregulated in all PDAC samples, irrespective of outcome, supporting an important role of the interaction between pancreatic cancer cells and the surrounding desmoplastic reaction in tumorigenesis and cancer progression. Moreover, some components such as ITGB1 and EPHA2 were upregulated in PDAC samples with a poor outcome, Additionally, overexpression of the non-canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway and EMT genes in PDAC samples with bad versus good outcome suggests their contribution to the invasiveness of pancreatic cancer, with β-catenin being also highly upregulated in metastatic tissue.
Conclusions: Components of the integrin and ephrin pathways and EMT related genes, might serve as molecular markers in pancreatic cancer as their expression seems to be related with prognosis.