Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Pancreatic cancer in 2022

The war on pancreatic cancer: progress and promise


The year 2022 was notable for substantial research progress related to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). The first single-cell and spatial transcriptomic atlases of PDAC were reported, a mechanism for how Schwann cells promote perineural invasion was explored, and, finally, the role of exercise in abrogating immunosuppression was shown.

Key advances

  • Spatial transcriptomics and other single-cell technologies reveal distinct transitional populations linking acinar-to-ductal metaplasia to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia and enrichment of metallothionein-expressing inflammatory cancer-associated fibroblasts in chemoresistant pancreatic cancer3.

  • Schwann cells within the tumour microenvironment organize into tumour-activated Schwann cell tracts that promote migration along nerves via activation of JUN6.

  • Aerobic exercise restrains pancreatic cancer growth in mice through IL-15–IL-15RA-mediated activation of CD8+ T cells, and evidence for this relationship was found in humans7.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Insights gained regarding pancreatic cancer biology.


  1. Park, W., Chawla, A. & O’Reilly, E. M. Pancreatic cancer: a review. JAMA 326, 851–862 (2021).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Kindler, H. L. et al. Overall survival results from the POLO trial: a phase III study of active maintenance olaparib versus placebo for germline BRCA-mutated metastatic pancreatic cancer. J. Clin. Oncol. (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Cui Zhou, D. et al. Spatially restricted drivers and transitional cell populations cooperate with the microenvironment in untreated and chemo-resistant pancreatic cancer. Nat. Genet. 54, 1390–1405 (2022).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Grippo, P. J. & Tuveson, D. A. Deploying mouse models of pancreatic cancer for chemoprevention studies. Cancer Prev. Res. 3, 1382–1387 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Schlesinger, Y. et al. Single-cell transcriptomes of pancreatic preinvasive lesions and cancer reveal acinar metaplastic cells’ heterogeneity. Nat. Commun. 11, 4516 (2020).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Deborde, S. et al. Reprogrammed Schwann cells organize into dynamic tracks that promote pancreatic cancer invasion. Cancer Discov. 12, 2454–2473 (2022).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Kurz, E. et al. Exercise-induced engagement of the IL-15/IL-15Rα axis promotes anti-tumor immunity in pancreatic cancer. Cancer Cell 40, 720–737.e5 (2022).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Liu, J. et al. Blood metallothionein transcript as a biomarker for metal sensitivity: low blood metallothionein transcripts in arsenicosis patients from Guizhou, China. Environ. Health Perspect. 115, 1101–1106 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Li, G. et al. Recent advances in c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitors. Curr. Med. Chem. 28, 607–627 (2021).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hegde, P. S. & Chen, D. S. Top 10 challenges in cancer immunotherapy. Immunity 52, 17–35 (2020).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christine A. Iacobuzio-Donahue.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Iacobuzio-Donahue, C.A. The war on pancreatic cancer: progress and promise. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 20, 75–76 (2023).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing: Cancer

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Cancer newsletter — what matters in cancer research, free to your inbox weekly.

Get what matters in cancer research, free to your inbox weekly. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Cancer