Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics, University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Blvd., Kansas City, KS, USA 66160.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers among all malignances, with a median overall survival of <1 year and a 5-year survival of ~5%. The dismal survival rate and prognosis are likely due to lack of early diagnosis, fulminant disease course, high metastasis rate, and disappointing treatment outcome. Pancreatic cancers harbor a variety of genetic alternations that render it difficult to treat even with targeted therapy. Recent studies revealed that pancreatic cancers are highly enriched with a cancer stem cell (CSC) population, which is resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs, and therefore escapes chemotherapy and promotes tumor recurrence. Cancer cell epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is highly associated with metastasis, generation of CSCs, and treatment resistance in pancreatic cancer. Reviewed here are the molecular biology of pancreatic cancer, the major signaling pathways regulating pancreatic cancer EMT and CSCs, and the advancement in current clinical and experimental treatments for pancreatic cancer.
Keywords: pancreatic cancer, cancer stem cell, epithelial to mesenchymal transition.