Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the most challenging tumor entities worldwide, characterized as a highly aggressive disease with dismal overall prognosis and an incidence rate equalling mortality rate. Over the last decade, substantial progress has been made to define the morphological changes and key genetic events in pancreatic carcinogenesis. And yet, it is still unclear what factors trigger PC. Some risk factors appear to be associated with sex, age, race/ethnicity, or other rare genetic conditions. Additionally, modifying factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, occupational risk factors, etc., increase the potential for acquiring genetic mutations that may result in PC. Another hallmark of PC is its poor response to radio- and chemo-therapy. Current chemotherapeutic regimens could not provide substantial survival benefit with a clear increase in overall survival. Recently, several new approaches to significantly improve the clinical outcome of PC have been described involving downstream signaling cascades desmoplasia and stromal response as well as tumor microenvironment, immune response, vasculature, and angiogenesis. This review summarizes major risk factors for PC and tries to illuminate relevant targets considerable for new therapeutic approaches.
Keywords: epigenetic changes; hereditary cancer syndromes; immune response; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; risk factors; signal-transduction pathways; stroma reaction; therapeutic targets.