Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 393, Issue 6, pp 891–900

Pancreatic stellate cells—role in pancreas cancer

  • Max G. Bachem
  • Shaoxia Zhou
  • Karin Buck
  • Wilhelm Schneiderhan
  • Marco Siech
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00423-008-0279-5

Cite this article as:
Bachem, M.G., Zhou, S., Buck, K. et al. Langenbecks Arch Surg (2008) 393: 891. doi:10.1007/s00423-008-0279-5



Adenocarcinomas of the pancreas are characterized by a rapid progression, an early metastasis, a limited response to chemo- and radiotherapy, and an intense fibrotic reaction known as tumor desmoplasia. Carcinoma cells are surrounded by a dense stroma consisting of myofibroblast-like cells, collagens, and fibronectin.

Materials and methods

This review describes the interaction of activated pancreatic stellate cells (myofibroblast-like cells) with tumor cells in pancreas adenocarcinomas. Our data were obtained in cell culture experiments and in in vivo investigations.


Carcinoma cells produce soluble mediators and stimulate motility, proliferation, matrix-, and MMP synthesis of stellate cells. Vice versa-activated stellate cells release mitogens, stimulating proliferation of cancer cells. Cancer cell proliferation and resistance to apoptosis might further be induced by the microenvironment (extracellular matrix), which is primarily provided by stellate cells. A very important aspect in the interaction of stellate cells with cancer cells is the expression of EMMPRIN (extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer) by cancer cells, the shedding of the extracellular part of EMMPRIN by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and the induction of MMPs in stellate cells by soluble EMMPRIN. In particular, the stellate cells in close proximity to tumor cells therefore express MMPs and degrade connective tissue.


Through complex interactions between stellate cells and carcinoma cells, tumor progression and cancer cell invasion are accelerated. As we gain better understanding of these mechanisms, adequate therapies to reduce tumor cell invasion and cancer progression might be developed.


Pancreas carcinomaPancreatic stellate cellCollagenEMMPRINCell motility



Dulbecco’s modification of Eagle’s medium


extracellular matrix


focal adhesion kinase


fetal calf serum




pancreas ductal adenocarcinoma


platelet-derived growth factor


pancreatic stellate cells


α-smooth muscle actin


culture supernatant

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Max G. Bachem
    • 1
    • 3
  • Shaoxia Zhou
    • 1
  • Karin Buck
    • 1
  • Wilhelm Schneiderhan
    • 1
  • Marco Siech
    • 2
  1. 1.Department Clinical Chemistry and Central LaboratoryUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Department of SurgeryOstalbklinikum AalenAalenGermany
  3. 3.ZE Klinische ChemieUniversität Ulm-KlinikumUlmGermany