Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of death from malignant disease in Western society. Apart from the fortunate few patients who present with a resectable small pancreatic adenocarcinoma, conventional treatment offers no hope of cure and has little palliative value. Over the past two decades major steps have been made in our understanding of the biology of pancreatic growth and neoplasia. This review sets out to explore these advances, firstly in the regulation of normal pancreatic growth, and secondly the mechanism which may be involved in malignant change of the exocrine pancreas. From an understanding of this new biology, new treatment strategies may be possible for patients with pancreatic cancer.
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