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Discovery of the pancreatic basal cell: a new candidate for an adult stem cell emerges
  1. Simone Benitz,
  2. Howard Crawford
  1. Surgery, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Howard Crawford, Surgery, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan, USA; hcrawfo1{at}

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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a devastating disease and the seventh cause of cancer-related death worldwide.1 Notably, clinical characteristics, response to chemotherapy and progression of PDAC can vary among patients. Thus, huge efforts on the molecular profiling of cancer specimens have been undertaken during the last decade. Large-scale gene expression studies defined two main PDAC subtypes with either a ‘classical’ or ‘basal-like’ transcriptional signature, with patients with the basal-like subtype having a significantly poorer overall survival.2–4

Basal cells are a cell type predominantly located in the basal layer of stratified and pseudostratified epithelia in several tissues, including the skin, oesophagus, lung and breast. Common basal cell markers include keratin5 (KRT5) and tumour protein P63 (TP63), a member of the TP53 transcription factor family. In the pulmonary airway, the oesophagus and the mammary gland, basal cells serve as multipotent stem cells or progenitor-like cells which can give rise to organ-specific, terminally differentiated cells and thus have an important role in tissue regeneration on injury.5 6

Though basal cells have been found in several glandular organs, the pancreas is …

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  • Contributors SB and HC wrote and edited the Commentary together.

  • Funding This study was funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (BE 7224/1-1) and National Cancer Institute (R01 CA247516).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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