Prevalence of Activating K-ras Mutations in the Evolutionary Stages of Neoplasia in Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Tumors of the Pancreas

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The purpose of the study was to determine the prevalence of activating K-ras mutations in the pancreas of patients with intraductal papillary mucinous tumors (IPMT) and to analyze their relation to the degree of site-specific histopathologic abnormality.


Intraductal papillary mucinous tumors of the pancreas have a biologic behavior that is significantly different from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Activating K-ras mutations, which may be important events in a multistage process of carcinogenesis, have been reported in IPMT.


Forty-six different histologic specimens (comprising normal pancreatic ducts, hyperplasia, low-grade dysplasia, high-grade dysplasia-carcinoma in situ, and carcinoma) from 16 patients with IPMT and 9 specimens from patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas were designated by a pathologist. Genomic DNA was extracted from paraffin-embedded tissue sections after microdissection. The K-ras gene was amplified by polymerase chain reaction and subjected to DNA sequencing.


The K-ras mutations were detected in at least one specimen in 13 (81.2%) of 16 patients with IPMT. All mutations were found in codon 12. No codon 13 mutations were detected. The relative frequency of K-ras mutations in the different stages of IPMT was 16.7% in normal epithelium and papillary hyperplasia, 28.6% in low-grade dysplasia, and 57.1% in high-grade dysplasia-carcinoma in situ and invasive carcinoma. The K-ras mutations were detected in 6 (66%) of 9 pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas.


The K-ras codon 12 point mutations are as frequent in IPMT as in ductal adenocarcinoma. A stepwise increase in the frequency of codon 12 mutations correlated with the stage of neoplastic evolution to cancer. This finding is consistent with an important role of K-ras gene mutations in the transformation from normal epithelium to invasive carcinoma in the majority of patients with IPMT.

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