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Pancreatology. 2001;1(5):517-24.

Pancreatic cancer: factors regulating tumor development, maintenance and metastasis.

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Department of Visceral and Transplantation Surgery, University of Bern, Inselspital, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland.


Pancreatic cancer has one of the poorest prognoses of all gastrointestinal malignancies. Today, it is the fourth or fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Western industrialized countries, and the incidence has been increasing throughout the past decades. Insensitivity to growth-inhibitory and apoptotic signals as well as self-sufficiency of growth-promoting factors are hallmarks of the pathogenesis of this malignancy. In pancreatic cancer, a variety of growth factors and their receptors are expressed at increased levels. For example, the concomitant presence of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor and its ligand EGF is associated with enhanced tumor aggressiveness and shorter survival following tumor resection. Furthermore, a number of other growth factors and their receptors, such as nerve growth factor and its receptor, are overexpressed in pancreatic cancer and contribute to its malignant phenotype. Besides factors which directly promote cell proliferation, a variety of other factors such as galectins are upregulated, which influences the tumor environment and the invasiveness of pancreatic cancer cells. In addition, tumor suppressor genes such as KAI1 are expressed at reduced levels, thereby enhancing the ability of pancreatic cells to form metastases. A complex disturbance of factors is present in pancreatic cancer, resulting in a distinct growth advantage which clinically results in rapid tumor progression and poor patient survival.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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