Characterization of cytokeratin 20 expression in pancreatic and colorectal cancer

Stefan Wildi, Jörg Kleeff, Haruhisa Maruyama, Christoph A. Maurer, Helmut Friess, Markus W. Büchler, Arthur D. Lander, Murray Korc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Cytokeratin 20 belongs to the epithelial subgroup of the intermediate filament family. Because of its restricted range of expression in humans, it has become an important tool for detecting and identifying metastatic cancer cells by immunohistochemistry and by PCR analysis. Despite its widespread diagnostic use in colorectal cancer and occasional use in pancreatic cancer, little is known about the expression of CK 20 in these tumors in vivo. Therefore, in the present study we characterized CK 20 expression in pancreatic and colorectal cancer by comparison with its expression in the normal pancreas and colon. Tissue samples from 24 patients with pancreatic cancer and from 41 patients with colorectal cancer were examined for CK 20 expression by Northern blot analysis, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization. CK 20 expression was observed in the cancer cells of both cancer types. A subgroup of the pancreatic cancers exhibited a 3.2-fold increase in CK 20 mRNA by comparison with respective normal controls. In contrast, colon cancers underexpressed CK 20 mRNA by comparison with the respective controls. In the normal tissues, CK 20 immunoreactivity was relatively faint and sparse in the pancreatic ductal cells but intense and abundant in the apical portions of the colonic mucosa. CK 20 immunoreactivity was also evident in the ductal cells from the chronic pancreatitis-like lesions adjacent to the cancer cells. Furthermore, distant metastases from pancreas carcinomas exhibited strong CK 20 immunoreactivity. It is concluded that CK 20 is overexpressed in pancreatic cancer and that it can serve as an excellent marker for metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2840-2847
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


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