Pancreatic Cancer and Obesity: Molecular Mechanisms of Cell Transformation and Chemoresistance

Priscilla Cascetta, Alessandro Cavaliere, Geny Piro, Lorena Torroni, Raffaela Santoro, Giampaolo Tortora, Davide Melisi, Carmine Carbone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cancer and obesity are the two major epidemics of the 21st century. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the leading causes of death, with a five-year overall survival rate of only 8%. Its incidence and mortality have increased in recent years, and this cancer type is expected to be among the top five leading causes of cancer-related death by 2030 in the United States (US). In the last three decades, the prevalence of overweight people has boosted with a consequent increase in obesity-related diseases. Considerable epidemiologic evidence correlates overweight and obese conditions to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including PDAC. Besides being a risk factor for multiple metabolic disorders, the tumor-promoting effects of obesity occur at the local level via inflammatory mediators that are associated with adipose inflammation and metabolic or hormones mediators and microbiota dysbiosis. Although an excess of body mass index (BMI) represents the second most modifiable risk factor for PDAC with an increased cancer related-death of more than 20⁻40%, still little is known about the molecular mechanisms that underlie this strong association. In this review, we focused on the role of obesity as a preventable risk factor of PDAC, discussing the molecular mechanisms linking obesity to cancer initiation and progression. Moreover, we highlighted the role of obesity in defining chemoresistance, showing how a high BMI can actually reduce response to chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 25 2018


  • chemoresistance
  • inflammation
  • obesity
  • pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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