Quantitative analysis of follicle-stimulating hormone receptor in ovarian epithelial tumors: a novel approach to explain the field effect of ovarian cancer development in secondary mullerian systems

Int J Cancer. 2003 Jan 20;103(3):328-34. doi: 10.1002/ijc.10848.


The role of FSHR expression in ovarian cancer development is not clear. We examined quantitative expression of FSHR in different types of OET, presumed precursor lesions and peritoneal implants and further discussed FSH as a key growth-promotion factor for the process of ovarian epithelial tumorigenesis. Thirty-five primary OET specimens, including 5 serous cystadenomas, 4 papillary serous cystadenomas, 9 SBTs and 17 serous carcinomas, were examined for quantitative FSHR expression. Ten paired samples (3 benign cystadenomas, 5 SBTs and 2 carcinomas) were obtained from several morphologically different areas, including benign-looking, borderline and cancerous areas in the same OETs, and from the remaining ovarian tissue and contralateral ovaries. Competitive RT-PCR was performed to measure the quantitative expression of FSHR in each tissue sample. FSHR expression levels were compared among nonpaired samples and within paired samples. We found that OSE had the lowest FSHR expression, whereas antral follicles had the highest level. Within benign OETs, papillary serous cystadenomas have 4.9-fold higher FSHR levels than nonpapillary serous cystadenomas. SBTs had the highest level of FSHR expression, which was 12.8-fold, 2.7-fold and 2.4-fold higher than that of serous cystadenomas, papillary serous cystadenomas and grade 1 carcinomas, respectively. A similarly high level of FSHR mRNA was found in peritoneal implants, which were associated with SBTs. FSHR levels among serous carcinomas decreased with an increase in carcinoma grade. Grade 3 carcinomas had the lowest FSHR level, which was similar to that of serous cystadenomas, while grade 1 carcinomas had 6.5-fold higher FSHR levels than those in serous cystadenomas. Our results suggest that not only serum FSH but also FSHR in ovarian epithelium may play important roles in ovarian OET development. Both the receptor and ligand may act in a synergistic way to promote tumor growth. The observation that high FSHR levels are present in peritoneal implants suggests that FSH may also play a similar role in the development of peritoneal serous tumors. From this perspective, circulating FSH may be considered a driving force in the field effect theory for the development of both ovarian neoplasms and their associated peritoneal implants. However, the exact role of FSH and/or FSHR in the development of epithelial tumors arising in both the ovary and peritoneum needs further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cystadenoma / genetics
  • Cystadenoma / metabolism
  • Cystadenoma / pathology
  • Cystadenoma, Papillary / genetics
  • Cystadenoma, Papillary / metabolism
  • Cystadenoma, Papillary / pathology
  • Cystadenoma, Serous / genetics
  • Cystadenoma, Serous / metabolism*
  • Cystadenoma, Serous / pathology
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mullerian Ducts / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Receptors, FSH / genetics
  • Receptors, FSH / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, FSH