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Cancer Treat Rev. 2000 Feb;26(1):29-52.

Molecular biology of pancreatic cancer; oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes, growth factors, and their receptors from a clinical perspective.

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Department of Surgery, 251 Hellenic Air Force (HAF) Hospital, Messogion and Katehaki, Athens, 115 25 (Papagos), Greece.


Pancreatic cancer represents the fourth leading cause of cancer death in men and the fifth in women. Prognosis remains dismal, mainly because the diagnosis is made late in the clinical course of the disease. The need to improve the diagnosis, detection, and treatment of pancreatic cancer is great. It is in this type of cancer, in which the mortality is so great and the clinical detection so difficult that the recent advances of molecular biology may have a significant impact. Genetic alterations can be detected at different levels. These alterations include oncogene mutations (most commonly, K-ras mutations, which occur in 75% to more than 95% of pancreatic cancer tissues), tumour suppressor genes alterations (mainly, p53, p16, DCC, etc.), overexpression of growth factors (such as EGF, TGF alpha, TGF beta 1-3, aFGF, bTGF, etc.) and their receptors (i.e., EGF receptor, TGF beta receptor I-III, etc.). Insights into the molecular genetics of pancreatic carcinogenesis are beginning to form a genetic model for pancreatic cancer and its precursors. These improvements in our understanding of the molecular biology of pancreatic cancer are not simply of research interest, but may have clinical implications, such as risk assessment, early diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis evaluation.

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