Gonadotropins and ovarian cancer

Endocr Rev. 2007 Jun;28(4):440-61. doi: 10.1210/er.2006-0036. Epub 2007 Apr 26.


Ovarian epithelial cancer (OEC) accounts for 90% of all ovarian cancers and is the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers in North America and Europe. Despite its clinical significance, the factors that regulate the development and progression of ovarian cancer are among the least understood of all major human malignancies. The two gonadotropins, FSH and LH, are key regulators of ovarian cell functions, and the potential role of gonadotropins in the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer is suggested. Ovarian carcinomas have been found to express specific receptors for gonadotropins. The presence of gonadotropins in ovarian tumor fluid suggests the importance of these factors in the transformation and progression of ovarian cancers as well as being prognostic indicators. Functionally, there is evidence showing a direct action of gonadotropins on ovarian tumor cell growth. This review summarizes the key findings and recent advances in our understanding of these peptide hormones in ovarian cancer development and progression and their role in potential future cancer therapy. We will first discuss the supporting evidence and controversies in the "gonadotropin theory" and the use of animal models for exploring the involvement of gonadotropins in the etiology of ovarian cancer. The role of gonadotropins in regulating the proliferation, survival, and metastasis of OEC is next summarized. Relevant data from ovarian surface epithelium, which is widely believed to be the precursor of OEC, are also described. Finally, we will discuss the clinical applications of gonadotropins in ovarian cancer and the recent progress in drug development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gonadotropins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / etiology*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / physiopathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Gonadotropin / physiology


  • Gonadotropins
  • Receptors, Gonadotropin