High-grade serous ovarian cancers account for most ovarian-cancer mortality. Although this disease initially responds well to platinum-based chemotherapy, relapse and progression to chemotherapy resistance are frequently seen. Time to relapse after first-line therapy is a predictor of response to secondary platinum treatment: more than 12 months is associated with high chance of a secondary response, whereas relapses within 6 months generally indicate platinum resistance. In this Personal View we discuss whether patterns of response, relapse, and the development of drug resistance in high-grade serous ovarian cancers are related to distinct underlying molecular and cellular biological characteristics. In particular, we propose that rapid relapse with platinum-resistant disease is due to minor subpopulations of intrinsically resistant cancer cells at presentation.
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