Emerging roles of the CXCL12/CXCR4 axis in pancreatic cancer progression and therapy

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Abstract

Chemokine networks regulate a variety of cellular, physiological, and immune processes. These normal functions can become appropriated by cancer cells to facilitate a more hospitable niche for aberrant cells by enhancing growth, proliferation, and metastasis. This is especially true in pancreatic cancer, where chemokine signaling is a vital component in the development of the supportive tumor microenvironment and the signaling between the cancer cells and surrounding stromal cells. Although expression patterns vary among cancer types, the chemokine receptor CXCR4 has been implicated in nearly every major malignancy and plays a prominent role in pancreatic cancer development and progression. This receptor, in conjunction with its primary chemokine ligand CXCL12, promotes pancreatic cancer development, invasion, and metastasis through the management of the tumor microenvironment via complex crosstalk with other pathways. Thus, CXCR4 likely contributes to the poor prognoses observed in patients afflicted with this malignancy. Recent exploration of combination therapies with CXCR4 antagonists have demonstrated improved outcomes, and abolishing the contribution of this pathway may prove crucial to effectively treat pancreatic cancer at both the primary tumor and metastases.

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