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Ep-CAM expression in pancreatic and ampullary carcinomas: frequency and prognostic relevance
  1. D Fong1,
  2. M Steurer1,
  3. P Obrist2,
  4. V Barbieri3,
  5. R Margreiter4,
  6. A Amberger4,
  7. K Laimer4,
  8. G Gastl1,
  9. A Tzankov2,
  10. G Spizzo1,4
  1. 1
    Division of Hematology and Oncology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria
  2. 2
    Department of Pathology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria
  3. 3
    Department of Biostatistics, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria
  4. 4
    Tyrolean Cancer Research Institute, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria
  1. Dominic Fong, MD, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Anichstrasse 35, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria; dominic.fong{at}


Aims: Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is an aggressive gastrointestinal malignancy with only a few long-term survivors even after radical surgery. Patients with ampullary cancer have a better prognosis but adjuvant therapy needs further improvement. Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (Ep-CAM) is strongly expressed in a variety of epithelial cancers and represents a promising target for immunological tumour therapy. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate Ep-CAM expression and its potential prognostic impact in pancreatic and ampullary carcinomas.

Methods: Ep-CAM expression was investigated retrospectively by immunohistochemistry in paraffin-embedded primary tumour tissue samples from a series of consecutive patients with pancreatic (n = 153) and ampullary cancer (n = 34).

Results: Ep-CAM overexpression was observed in 85 of 153 pancreatic cancer specimens (56%) and in 29 of 34 ampullary cancer samples (85%). Overall, Ep-CAM failed to be an independent prognostic marker. However, subgroup analyses showed that Ep-CAM overexpression correlated with shorter overall survival among patients with ampullary cancer and advanced stage pancreatic cancer. In the latter subgroup, survival gradually worsened with increasing Ep-CAM scores. Furthermore, in ampullary cancer, Ep-CAM overexpression was found to correlate with tumour stage.

Conclusions: Ep-CAM overexpression was detectable in the majority of cases with pancreatic and ampullary cancer. Therefore, Ep-CAM represents an attractive target for immune-based therapeutic interventions in these tumour entities. However, the prognostic value of Ep-CAM overexpression remains undetermined.

  • epithelial cell adhesion molecule
  • Ep-CAM
  • pancreatic cancer
  • ampullary cancer

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  • Funding: This work was supported by the Tiroler Verein zur Förderung der Krebsforschung.

  • Competing interests: None.