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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Reduced expression of p21-activated protein kinase 1 correlates with poor histological differentiation in pancreatic cancer

Juan Han12, Feng Wang13, Shu-qiang Yuan34, Ying Guo3, Zhao-lei Zeng3, Li-ren Li15, Jing Yang3, De-sen Wang13, Mei-yuan Liu2, Han Zhao2, Kai-yan Liu3, Jian-wei Liao3, Qing-feng Zou2* and Rui-hua Xu13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Oncology, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510060, China

2 Section 3 of Internal Medicine, The Affiliated Tumor Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, 78 Hengzhigang Road, Guangzhou 510095 Guangdong, China

3 State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, Collaborative Innovation Center of Cancer Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou 510060, China

4 Department of Gastric and Pancreatic Surgery, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510060, China

5 Department of Colorectal Surgery, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510060, China

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:650  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-650

Published: 3 September 2014



P21-activated protein kinase 1 (PAK1), a main downstream effector of small Rho GTPases, is overexpressed in many malignancies. PAK1 overexpression is associated with poor prognosis in some tumor types, including breast cancer, gastric cancer, and colorectal cancer. However, the expression and clinical relevance of PAK1 expression in human pancreatic cancer remains unknown.


The present study investigated the clinical and prognostic significance of PAK1 expression in pancreatic carcinoma. We examined and scored the expression of PAK1 by immunohistochemistry in 72 primary pancreatic carcinoma samples and 20 liver metastatic samples. The relationships between PAK1 and clinicopathological parameters and prognosis in primary and metastatic pancreatic cancer were analyzed.


Among the total 92 cases, primary pancreatic cancer samples had a significantly higher rate (38/72, 52.8%) of high PAK1 expression than liver metastatic samples (5/20, 25.0%) (P = 0.028). Among the 72 primary pancreatic cancer patients, high PAK1 expression was associated with younger age (P = 0.038) and moderately or well differentiated tumor (P = 0.007). Moreover, a positive relationship was found between high PAK1 expression and overall survival (OS) (P < 0.005). Patients with high PAK1 expression had a better OS than those with low PAK1 expression. Univariate and multivariate analysis by Cox regression including PAK1 and other prognostic pathological markers demonstrated high PAK1 immunostaining as a prognostic factor for survival in pancreatic cancer patients (P < 0.005).


We report for the first time that PAK1 is a novel prognostic marker for pathologically confirmed human pancreatic cancer. Reduced expression of PAK1 correlates with poor histological differentiation in pancreatic cancer.

P21-activated protein kinase 1 (PAK1); Pancreatic cancer; Immunohistochemistry; Prognosis