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Different subtypes of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm in the pancreas have distinct pathways to pancreatic cancer progression

  • Original Article—Liver, Pancreas, and Biliary Tract
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Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) is recognized as a precursor lesion to pancreatic cancer, a unique pathological entity. IPMN has subtypes with different clinical characteristics. However, the molecular mechanisms of cancer progression from IPMN remain largely unknown. In this study we examined the differences in genetic alteration(s) among the IPMN subtypes.


Surgically resected IPMNs (n = 25) were classified into four subtypes by hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and mucin immunostaining. Mutations in KRAS, BRAF, and PIK3CA genes and expression of CDKN2A, TP53, SMAD4, phospho-ERK, and phospho-SMAD1/5/8 proteins were examined.


There were 11 gastric, 11 intestinal, one pancreatobiliary, and two oncocytic types in this study. We then compared the two major subtypes, gastric-type and intestinal-type IPMN. Gastric-type IPMN showed a significantly higher incidence of KRAS mutations (9/11, 81.8%) compared with intestinal type (3/11, 27.3%; p < 0.05), although the intestinal type showed a higher grade of dysplasia than gastric type (p < 0.01). All cases with KRAS mutations showed phospho-ERK immunostaining. In contrast, intestinal type (9/11, 81.8%) showed more frequent SMAD1/5/8 phosphorylation compared with gastric-type IPMN (3/11, 27.3%; p < 0.05%).


There may be distinct mechanisms of pancreatic cancer progression in the different subtypes of IPMN. In particular, KRAS mutation and bone morphogenetic protein-SMAD signaling status may be crucial diverging steps for the two representative pathways to pancreatic cancer in IPMN patients.

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Bone morphogenetic protein


Epidermal growth factor receptor


Extracellular signal-regulated kinase


Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm


Intraductal papillary mucinous carcinoma


Pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma


Polymerase chain reaction


Main pancreatic duct


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We thank Drs. Norihiro Kokudo and Taku Aoki (Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Surgery Division, University of Tokyo) for the surgical sample acquisition. We also thank Mitsuko Tsubouchi and Sanae Ogawa for technical assistance. This study was supported by KAKENHI, grants of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) to M.O., K.K., and H.I.

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Correspondence to Hideaki Ijichi.

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Mohri, D., Asaoka, Y., Ijichi, H. et al. Different subtypes of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm in the pancreas have distinct pathways to pancreatic cancer progression. J Gastroenterol 47, 203–213 (2012).

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