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Cytokeratin 6 identifies basal-like subtypes of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma with decreased survival.

PURPOSE: Rising incidence of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) bind with insufficient therapy options showcases a great medical challenge. Further biomarkers are required to identify patients, who will benefit from more aggressive therapy.

METHODS: 320 patients were included by the PANCALYZE study group. Cytokeratin 6 (CK6) immunohistochemical staining as a putative marker for the basal-like subtype of PDAC was performed. The correlation between CK6 expression patterns and survival data, as well as various markers of the (inflammatory) tumor microenvironment, were analyzed.

RESULTS: We divided the study population based on the expression pattern of CK6. Patients with a high CK6 tumor expression had a significantly shorter survival (p = 0.013), confirmed in a multivariate cox regression model. CK6-expression is an independent marker for a decreased overall survival (HR = 1.655, 95% CI 1.158-2.365, p = 0.006). In addition, the CK6-positive tumors showed significantly less plasma cell infiltration and more cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) expressing Periostin and SMA.

CONCLUSIONS: CK6 could be considered as an independent biomarker for a shorter overall survival. CK6 is a clinically easily accessible biomarker for the identification of the basal-like subtype of PDAC. Therefore, it could be taken into consideration in deciding for the more aggressive therapy regimes. Prospectively, studies addressing the chemosensitive characteristics of this subtype are required.

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