Small cell carcinoma of the ovary of the hypercalcaemic type: an analysis of clinical and prognostic aspects of a rare disease on the basis of cases published in the literature

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011 Nov;284(5):1277-82. doi: 10.1007/s00404-011-1846-5. Epub 2011 Feb 6.


Purpose: Ovarian small cell carcinoma of the hypercalcaemic type is a very rare and highly aggressive malignant disease, mainly affecting young women. Due to the rarity of this tumour entity, prospective randomised trials are unlikely to be conducted, and the only retrospective analysis based on a large case series is from 1994. Since diagnostic and treatment modalities may have changed, we initiated this analysis.

Methods: The aim of our study was to review and analyse cases published since 1975 to validate former findings and to gather more information about therapy options, diagnostic and prognostic factors. A systematic literature search of the PubMed/Medline database was performed assessing all articles until September 2010. All retrieved articles were evaluated and cross-checked for references on the topic. In total, 135 cases were included, selected from 62 case reports and smaller case studies.

Results: Small cell carcinoma mostly affects women with a mean age of 23.4 years. They present with unspecific symptoms like abdominal pain or palpable mass, sometimes accompanied by an elevated calcium or CA-125 serum concentration. The tumour appears nearly almost unilaterally, mostly affecting the right ovary. Tumour stage is a clearly prognostic factor. Adjuvant chemotherapy consisting of etoposide, cisplatinum/carboplatinum or vinca alkaloids has shown improved survival, whereas radiotherapy has not.

Conclusions: In spite of limitations this analysis provides new insights especially with respect to therapeutic aspects. This review underlines the importance of case reports in rare tumour entities in order to answer open questions.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / surgery
  • Photochemotherapy
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antineoplastic Agents