Objective: To analyze the role of Artemin in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) in terms of expression, influence on cancer cell behavior, and pain correlation.
Summary Background Data: PDAC is characterized by prominent local nerve alterations and perineural invasion, which frequently affects the extrapancreatic nerve plexus, causing severe pain and precluding curative resection. Artemin, a neurotrophic protein controlling growth, regeneration, and survival of neurons was analyzed to highlight the neuro-cancer interactions in PDAC.
Methods: Artemin and its receptors (GFRα3/RET) were studied in PDAC tissues and normal pancreas by Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. RNA expression was analyzed in pancreatic tissues (normal, cancer) and pancreatic cancer cell lines by QRT-PCR. To evaluate whether Artemin influences cancer cell proliferation and invasion, MTT-growth and Matrigel-invasion assays were used. In addition, the tissue expression of Artemin was correlated with pain in PDAC.
Results: Artemin and GFRα3/RET were both detected at enhanced levels in PDAC compared with normal pancreas, localizing predominantly in hypertrophic nerves and arterial walls, as well as in cancer cells of primary and metastatic lesions. The levels of Artemin and GFRα3 did not correlate with pain in PDAC patients. However, Artemin promoted pancreatic cancer cell invasion up to 5-fold, without affecting cancer cell proliferation.
Conclusion: Artemin expression was not associated with pain in PDAC. However by increasing cancer cell invasion, Artemin seems to influence neural invasion and thereby contribute to cancer cell spreading along pancreatic nerves.