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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 May 15;10(10):3448-56.

Pak-1 expression increases with progression of colorectal carcinomas to metastasis.

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Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory, Newport, Kentucky 41071, USA.



The p21-activated kinase-1 (Pak-1) promotes cell motility and invasiveness. Pak-1 is activated by the Rac, Rho, and Cdc42 small GTPases in response to a variety of stimuli including ras and phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/AKT pathway activation. Because Pak-1 plays a central role in regulating cell motility and invasiveness, we sought to determine whether Pak-1 may be involved in the malignant progression of colorectal carcinoma.


Pak-1 expression was examined by immunohistochemistry in archived tissues from normal human colons, tubular and tubulovillous adenomas, invasive adenocarcinomas (stages I-III/IV), and lymph node metastases (184 total specimens from 38 patients). Specific cytoplasmic immunostaining was evaluated for overall intensity and uniformity to derive a combined histoscore (stain intensity x percentage of epithelium stained).


Pak-1 expression was increased significantly with colorectal cancer progression from normal tissue to lymph node metastases (P < 0.0001). Furthermore, Pak-1 expression was increased significantly in adenomas, invasive carcinomas, and lymph node metastases compared with normal colon (P < 0.0001). Strikingly, Pak-1 expression was significantly higher in lymph node metastases than in invasive cancers, adenomas, or normal colon (P < 0.0001). Moreover, in patients with multiple lesions representing different stages of disease, Pak-1 expression was increased specifically in the most advanced lesions.


This study demonstrates that Pak-1 expression is increased significantly with malignant progression of human colorectal carcinoma. These data, along with numerous functional studies demonstrating a central role for Pak-1 activity in tumor invasiveness and motility, implicate Pak-1 as an exciting target for therapy of colorectal carcinoma.

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