Evidence for cancer stem cells contributing to the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:368-92. doi: 10.2741/3693.


Ovarian cancer represents the most lethal gynecologic malignancy, primarily due to a lack of early detection, which results in most patients being diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease. Though the ovarian surface epithelium is thought to provide the primary site of tumorigenesis, the exact etiology of the various tumor types associated with this disease remain undefined. Recent evidence suggests that ovarian tumors, like other solid tumors, contain distinct populations of cells that are responsible for tumor initiation, maintenance and growth. These specialized cells, termed cancer stem cells, display some of the hallmarks of normal stem cells and are thought to evade current chemotherapeutic strategies, resulting in an increased risk of recurrence. Here we review evidence for the existence of cancer stem cells in ovarian malignancies and their contribution to the pathology of this disease, critically evaluate the methods used for ovarian cancer stem cell definition and isolation, and discuss their clinical relevance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / physiology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / physiology
  • Mice
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / physiology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / physiopathology
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovary / pathology
  • Peptides / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / pathology
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • Glycoproteins
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88
  • Peptides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit