Insulin Receptor in Pancreatic Cancer-Crown Witness in Cross Examination


The proximity of pancreatic cancer (PDAC) to the physiological source of the growth promoting hormone insulin might be exploited by this highly malignant cancer entity. We investigated if (I) PDACs express the insulin receptor (IR) in cancer cells and cancer vasculature, (II) if IR correlates with clinicopathological patient characteristics, including survival, and hence is involved in PDAC biology, (III) if IR is already expressed in precursor lesions, if (IV) the IGF1 receptor (IGF1R) is associated with clinicopathological patient characteristics and survival and (V) is linked to IR expression.


160 PDAC samples were examined for IR and IGF1R expression by immunohistochemistry. A modified HistoScore was correlated with clinicopathological characteristics and survival.


IR overexpression was already observed in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia. Furthermore, it was more frequently observed in advanced disease and associated with distant metastasis, UICC stage, lymphatic invasion and an increased lymph node ratio, but without impacting survival in the end. IGF1R expression was not associated with clinicopathological parameters or survival, in contrast to former paradigms.


We hypothesize that the close proximity to the pancreatic islets might be advantageous for cancer growth at first, but it experiences self-limitation due to surgical removal or local destruction following accelerated cancer growth.


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