The Cell Biology of Metastatic Invasion in Pancreatic Cancer: Updates and Mechanistic Insights

Vidhu B. Joshi, Omar L. Gutierrez Ruiz, Gina L. Razidlo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the leading causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. This is largely due to the lack of routine screening protocols, an absence of symptoms in early-stage disease leading to late detection, and a paucity of effective treatment options. Critically, the majority of patients either present with metastatic disease or rapidly develop metastatic disease. Thus, there is an urgent need to deepen our understanding of metastasis in PDAC. During metastasis, tumor cells escape from the primary tumor, enter the circulation, and travel to a distant site to form a secondary tumor. In order to accomplish this relatively rare event, tumor cells develop an enhanced ability to detach from the primary tumor, migrate into the surrounding matrix, and invade across the basement membrane. In addition, cancer cells interact with the various cell types and matrix proteins that comprise the tumor microenvironment, with some of these factors working to promote metastasis and others working to suppress it. In PDAC, many of these processes are not well understood. The purpose of this review is to highlight recent advances in the cell biology of the early steps of the metastatic cascade in pancreatic cancer. Specifically, we will examine the regulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in PDAC and its requirement for metastasis, summarize our understanding of how PDAC cells invade and degrade the surrounding matrix, and discuss how migration and adhesion dynamics are regulated in PDAC to optimize cancer cell motility. In addition, the role of the tumor microenvironment in PDAC will also be discussed for each of these invasive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2169
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition
  • focal adhesions
  • invadopodia
  • invasion
  • metastasis
  • pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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