Detection of High Expression Levels of EMT-Transcription Factor mRNAs in Patients With Pancreatic Cancer and Their Diagnostic Potential

  • End date
    Nov 25, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Istituto Clinico Humanitas
Updated on 2 March 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


The present study is aimed at detecting and measuring mRNA levels of genes involved in epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in biological samples, i.e. in peripheral blood samples of pancreatic cancer (PC) patients and healthy controls, to determine the presence of disease, its progression and risk of recurrence.


The investigators first provided evidence that human pancreatic cancer (PC) cells can undergo EMT during local invasion, and that EMT transcription factors (i.e.Twist family basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor 1 (TWIST1)) are increased in the blood of PC patients. In addressing the relevance of EMT in the metastatic process, the prognostic role of M-like cancer cells entering into the circulation remains to be determined.

Currently, the notion that cancer disseminates via the circulation led to increased attention on the identification of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in blood samples ("liquid biopsy"; LB), so far exclusively based upon epithelial (E) markers. However, an un-biased evaluation of CTCs, providing meaningful information for cancer diagnosis up to therapy, cannot exclude cells with M features. LB data show that circulating TWIST1, zinc finger E-box binding homeobox 2 (ZEB2) and E-Cadherin (CDH1) messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNA) are significantly and steadily increased in the blood of PC patients.These findings indicate that high levels of EMT players in the circulation efficiently discriminate PC patients, irrespectively of tumor resectability.

The present study is aimed at detecting and measuring mRNA levels of genes involved in epithelial to mesenchymal transition in biological samples, i.e. in peripheral blood samples of tumor patients, to determine the presence of disease, its progression and risk of recurrence.

Aim of the study is to depict the molecular profile of EMT-Transcription factor (EMT-TFs) variations in the blood of patients with early, intermediate or advanced PC, with respect to disease progression and delivered treatments.

Primary endpoint: to determ the stage, the remission or the progression of a pancreatic cancer in a pancreatic cancer affected subjects. This end-point comprising the step of assaying a biological sample from said subject for the presence of a panel of mRNAs encoding for transcription factors involved in epithelial to mesenchymal transition.

Secondary endpoint: to identify biomarkers suitable for the selection of patients amenable of responsiveness to medical and surgical treatment.

Condition Pancreatic Cancer
Treatment Liquid Biopsy
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04323917
SponsorIstituto Clinico Humanitas
Last Modified on2 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Males or females over 18 years of age capable of providing informed consent
Pancreatic carcinoma confirmed by tissue biopsy or colon mass, clinically consistent with cancer and eventually confirmed by pathology
Subject were enrolled following colon cancer screening via colonoscopy

Exclusion Criteria

Patients under the age of 18 years or over the age of 80 years
Patients with personal history of cancer, identification of large polyp or adenomatous pathology on previous or subsequent colonoscopy
Patient with history of abdominal surgery within the past four months
Patients unwilling to or unable to give informed consent
Patients with acute inflammatory diseases or under any emergency condition
Pregnant women
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