Background: The transcription factor capicua (CIC) regulates mammalian development and homeostasis. Growing evidence shows that CIC suppresses various human cancers by directly repressing the downstream cancer-related target genes. This study investigated the clinical and biologic significance of CIC expression in pancreatic cancer (PC). Methods: The study reviewed 132 patients with PC who underwent curative resection. The patients were divided into two groups according to CIC immunoreactivity score by immunohistochemistry, and the associations between CIC expression, clinicopathologic characteristics, and postoperative prognosis were investigated. Moreover, the influence of CIC expression on the malignant potential of PC cells was assessed with cell proliferation, motility assays, and use of quantitative real time-polymerase chain reaction and Western blot on the downstream target genes of CIC in knockdown experiments. Results: The low-CIC expression group showed a higher proportion of lymphatic invasion (72.9% vs. 53.1%; p = 0.024), intrapancreatic neural invasion (94.1% vs. 81.3%; p = 0.021), and extrapancreatic plexus invasion (30.9% vs. 7.8%; p = 0.0006) than the high-CIC expression group as well as significantly worse overall survival (p = 0.0002) and recurrence-free survival (p = 0.0041) rates. Low CIC expression was an independent risk factor for poor prognosis (p = 0.038). Pancreatic cancer cells with knockdown CIC significantly enhanced cell motilities and cell cycle progression, promoted expression levels of ETV4 and MMP-9, and induced EMT. Conclusions: The study elucidated the association of low CIC expression with a poor prognosis for patients with PC and suggested that the CIC–ETV4–MMP-9 axis might control PC progression.
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