Clear cell carcinoma of the ovary: a review of the literature

Gynecol Oncol. 2012 Sep;126(3):481-90. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2012.04.021. Epub 2012 Apr 21.


Objective: Different histologic types of epithelial ovarian cancer may represent different diseases with unique clinical and molecular characteristics. Clear cell carcinoma (CCC) of the ovary has been reported as having a worse prognosis than high grade serous epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). This article critically reviews the literature pertinent to the pathology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, management, and outcome of patients with ovarian CCC.

Methods: MEDLINE was searched for all research articles published in English between January 01, 1977 and January 30, 2012 which reported on patients diagnosed with ovarian CCC. Given the rarity of this tumor, studies were not limited by design or number of reported patients.

Results: Ovarian CCC tumors represent 5-25% of ovarian cancers. Its histologic diagnosis can be challenging, resulting often times in misclassification of these tumors. Ovarian CCC tends to present at earlier stages and has been associated with endometriosis, ARID1A and PIK3CA mutations. When compared to stage-matched controls, patients with early-stage ovarian CCCs may have a better prognosis than patients with high-grade serous tumors. For those with advanced stage disease, high-grade serous histology confers a better prognosis than ovarian CCC. Patients with Stage IC-IV have a relatively poor prognosis and efforts should center in discovery of more effective treatment strategies.

Conclusions: Ovarian CCC is a biologically distinct entity, different from high-grade serous EOC. Future studies should explore the role of targeted therapies in the management of ovarian CCC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Prognosis