Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an intractable disease as a result of its rapid dissemination and resistance to conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Surgical resection is the only curative therapy, but most of the tumors are unresectable at the time of diagnosis. The molecular mechanisms underlying the biological aggressiveness of this tumor type remain to be clarified. Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a developmental process that leads the phenotype shift from an epithelial morphology to a motile, fibroblast-like morphology. Recent studies showed that EMT is involved in the invasion and metastasis of many types of carcinomas including PDAC. In addition, PDAC cells with the EMT phenotype also exhibit chemoresistance and the cancer stem cell property. Various factors such as cytokines, growth factors, or transcriptional factors were found to promote the EMT program in PDAC cells. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the EMT in PDAC cells, focusing on the involvement of this process and its regulatory molecules including microRNA during the development of PDAC cells.
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