Objective: Receptors for estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR), or androgen (AR) are predictive and prognostic markers of malignancy of multiple endocrine organs, including endometrial and breast cancer. However, the role of ERs, PRs, or ARs in the carcinogenesis of ovarian cancer, another sex hormone-dependent malignancy, is still controversial despite numerous studies that have attempted to determine their role. The disagreement in the findings may result from the fact that the numbers of tumor samples in studies have been small and that different immunohistochemical methods have been used that can introduce variation in the scoring of the histology. We therefore examined the pattern of expression of ERs, PRs, and ARs in a large number of samples of primary ovarian carcinoma by using a tissue microarray technique.
Methods: We constructed a tissue microarray with 322 samples of primary ovarian carcinoma obtained at surgery performed at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center between 1990 and 2000. Immunohistochemistry studies were performed by using the immunoperoxidase technique against primary antibodies (ER, PR, and AR).
Results: ERs, PRs, and ARs were differently expressed in different histotypes of ovarian cancer: ERs were expressed in 77.3% of all cases but more highly expressed in serous and endometrioid types; PRs were expressed in 26.2% of all cases but most highly expressed in the endometrioid type < 64.2%; and ARs were expressed in 43.7% of all cases but were most highly expressed in serous (47.5%) carcinomas. Of particular importance, the expression of PRs, but not ERs or ARs, was associated with better survival (P < 0.0001) in univariate and multivariate analyses.
Conclusions: The PR is an independent marker, with its overexpression associated with a favorable prognosis in women with ovarian cancer.