Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death due to its invasive nature. Despite the improvement of diagnostic strategy, early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is still challenging. Surgical resection is the only curative therapy, while vast majority of patients are not eligible for this therapeutic option. Complex biological processes are involved in the establishment of invasion and metastasis of pancreatic cancer and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been reported to play crucial role. EMT is part of the normal developmental processes which mobilizes epithelial cells and yields mesenchymal phenotype. Deregulation of EMT inducing molecules in pancreatic cancer is reported, such as multiple cytokines, growth factors and downstream transcriptional factors. In addition to these molecules, non-coding RNA including miRNAalso contributes to EMT. EMT of cancer cell also correlates with cancer stem cell (CSC) properties such as chemoresistance or tumorigenicity, therefore these upstream regulators of EMT could be attractive therapeutic targets and several candidates are examined for clinical application. This review summarizes recent advances in this field, focusing the regulatory molecules of EMT and their downstream targets. Further understanding and research advances will clarify the cryptic mechanism of cancer metastasis and delineate novel therapeutic targets.
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