Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, proving difficult to manage clinically. Wnt-11, a developmentally regulated gene producing a secreted protein, has been associated with various carcinomas but has not previously been studied in PDAC. The present study aimed to elucidate these aspects first in vitro and then in a clinical setting in vivo. Molecular analyses of Wnt-11 expression as well as other biomarkers involved qRT-PCR, RNA-seq and siRNA. Proliferation was measured by MTT; invasiveness was quantified by Boyden chamber (Matrigel) assay. Wnt-11 mRNA was present in three different human PDAC cell lines. Wnt-11 loss affected epithelial-mesenchymal transition and expression of neuronal and stemness biomarkers associated with metastasis. Indeed, silencing Wnt-11 in Panc-1 cells significantly inhibited their Matrigel invasiveness without affecting their proliferative activity. Consistently with the in vitro data, human biopsies of PDAC showed significantly higher Wnt-11 mRNA levels compared with matched adjacent tissues. Expression was significantly upregulated during PDAC progression (TNM stage I to II) and maintained (TNM stages III and IV). Wnt-11 is expressed in PDAC in vitro and in vivo and plays a significant role in the pathophysiology of the disease; this evidence leads to the conclusion that Wnt-11 could serve as a novel, functional biomarker PDAC.
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