The cell of origin of ovarian epithelial tumours

Lancet Oncol. 2008 Dec;9(12):1191-7. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70308-5.


Although it is widely believed that ovarian epithelial tumours arise in the coelomic epithelium that covers the ovarian surface, it has been suggested that they could instead arise from tissues that are embryologically derived from the Müllerian ducts. This article revisits this debate by discussing recent epidemiological and molecular biological findings as well as evidence based on histopathological observations of surgical specimens from individuals with familial ovarian cancer predisposition. Morphological, embryological, and molecular biological characteristics of ovarian epithelial tumours that must be accounted for in formulating a theory about their cell of origin are reviewed, followed by comments about the ability of these two hypotheses to account for each of these characteristics. An argument is made that primary ovarian epithelial tumours, fallopian tube carcinomas, and primary peritoneal carcinomas are all Müllerian in nature and could therefore be regarded as a single disease entity. Although a substantial proportion of cancers currently regarded as of primary ovarian origin arise in the fimbriated end of the fallopian tube, this site cannot account for all of these tumours, some of which are most likely derived from components of the secondary Müllerian system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Cystadenoma, Serous / pathology
  • Fallopian Tubes / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mullerian Ducts / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*