Retinoids and ovarian cancer

J Cell Physiol. 2000 Oct;185(1):1-20. doi: 10.1002/1097-4652(200010)185:1<1::AID-JCP1>3.0.CO;2-O.


Each year, an estimated 26,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. During any given year, approximately 14,500 women die from this disease. Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women worldwide, after breast, cervix, colon/rectum, stomach, corpus uteri, and lung cancers. In the U.S., ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer, and is the fourth leading cause of solid tumor cancer deaths among women. Currently, postoperative chemotherapy of ovarian cancer is still suboptimal. Drug resistance is a common problem resulting in only 20 approximately 30% overall 5-year survival rates. Clearly, continued development of alternative therapeutic strategies is essential for the management of this fatal disease. A number of recent studies have suggested that retinoids may play a potential role as an ovarian cancer chemotherapeutic agent. Retinoids, the natural and synthetic derivatives of vitamin A, have been shown to inhibit the growth of human ovarian cancer cells both in vivo and in culture. This review will initially summarize what is known about the pathological and molecular characteristics of ovarian carcinoma. It will then describe retinoid metabolism and the role of the cellular and nuclear retinoid binding proteins in mediating retinoid action. Following this general review of retinoids and their function, data supporting the role of retinoic acid as a suppresser of ovarian carcinoma cell growth will be presented. Particular attention will be paid to studies suggesting that members of the RB family of proteins and RB2/p130, in particular, are the molecular targets responsible for retinoid mediated inhibition of ovarian carcinoma cell growth. This review will then conclude with a brief discussion of two synthetic retinoids, 4 HPR R(fenretinide) and AHPN/CD437, which have been shown to induce apoptosis in ovarian tumor cells. It will be clear from the studies summarized in this review that retinoids represent a potentially powerful alternative to present chemotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of late stage ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Female
  • Fenretinide / pharmacology*
  • Fenretinide / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Retinoids / pharmacology*
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • CD 437
  • Retinoids
  • Fenretinide