Cellular and molecular mechanisms of perineural invasion of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Cancer Commun (Lond). 2021 Jul 15. doi: 10.1002/cac2.12188. Online ahead of print.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an aggressive malignant disease with a unique tumor microenvironment surrounded by an interlaced network of cancer and noncancerous cells. Recent works have revealed that the dynamic interaction between cancer cells and neuronal cells leads to perineural invasion (PNI), a clinical pathological feature of PDAC. The formation and function of PNI are dually regulated by molecular (e.g., involving neurotrophins, cytokines, chemokines, and neurotransmitters), metabolic (e.g., serine metabolism), and cellular mechanisms (e.g., involving Schwann cells, stromal cells, T cells, and macrophages). Such integrated mechanisms of PNI not only support tumor development, growth, invasion, and metastasis but also mediate the formation of pain, all of which are closely related to poor disease prognosis in PDAC. This review details the modulation, signaling pathways, detection, and clinical relevance of PNI and highlights the opportunities for further exploration that may benefit PDAC patients.

Keywords: neurotrophins; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; perineural invasion; schwann cells; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review