[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the expression of the co-signalling molecule CD40 in pancreatic cancer and the growth inhibitory effect of the recombinant soluble human CD40 ligand (rshCD40L) in pancreatic cancer cell lines. Twenty-six cases of pancreatic cancer tissues and corresponding paratumoral normal tissues were immunohistochemically analyzed for CD40 expression. The association of CD40 expression with clinicopathological parameters, including clinical stage, pathological grade, invasion and metastasis, were statistically analyzed. The serum sCD40 levels in pancreatic cancer patients were examined by ELISA. The expression of CD40 in the pancreatic cancer cell lines Panc-1, Aspc-1 and Miapaca-2 was examined by RT-PCR and flow cytometry. The growth inhibitory activity of rshCD40L on pancreatic cancer cell lines was determined by MTT assay. Tumor cell apoptosis was detected by TUNEL and Annexin V/PI double staining method. CD40 was positive both on the membrane and in the cytoplasm of tumor cells, 69.2% (18/26) of the cases were positive for CD40. CD40 expression was significantly higher in pancreatic cancer tissues compared to adjacent normal tissues (P<0.05). High CD40 expression was associated with TNM stage and lymph node metastasis (both P<0.05). Patients with pancreatic cancer have higher serum sCD40L levels (3.53 ± 0.70 ng/ml) compared to healthy subjects (1.81 ± 0.48 ng/ml, P<0.05). rshCD40L significantly inhibited the proliferation of the pancreatic cancer cell lines and induced apoptosis in these cell lines. The co-signaling molecule CD40 is highly expressed in pancreatic cancer tissues and cell lines and rshCD40L is a potential tool for antitumor therapies.