The silent course of pancreatic cancer and its explosive fatal outcome have hindered studies of tumor histogenesis and the identification of early biochemical and genetic alterations that could help to diagnose the disease at a curable stage and develop therapeutic strategies. Experimental animal models provide important tools to assess risk factors, as well as preventive and therapeutic possibilities. Although several pancreatic cancer models presently exist, only models that closely resemble human tumors in morphological, clinical, and biological aspects present useful media for preclinical studies. Because an estimated 70% of human tumors are induced by carcinogens and because a significant association has been found between cigarette smoking and pancreatic cancer, chemically induced models are of particular value. Moreover, in such models the etiology, modifying factors, effects of diets, and naturally occurring products can be studied and early diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic possibilities sought out. Many of the existing models are described in this review, and the advantages and shortcomings of each model and their clinical implications are discussed.
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