Histotype Classification of Ovarian Carcinoma: A Comparison of Approaches

Gynecol Oncol. 2018 Oct;151(1):53-60. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2018.08.016. Epub 2018 Aug 16.


Objective: Major changes in the classification of ovarian carcinoma histotypes occurred over the last two decades, resulting in the current 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) diagnostic criteria that recognize five principal histotypes: high-grade serous, low-grade serous, endometrioid, clear cell, and mucinous carcinoma. We assessed the impact of these guidelines and use of immunohistochemical (IHC) markers on classification of ovarian carcinomas in existing population-based studies.

Methods: We evaluated histotype classification for 2361 ovarian carcinomas diagnosed between 1999 and 2009 from two case-control studies using three approaches: 1. pre-2014 WHO ("historic") histotype; 2. Standardized review of pathology slides using the 2014 WHO criteria alone; and 3. An integrated IHC assessment along with the 2014 WHO criteria. We used Kappa statistics to assess agreement between approaches, and Kaplan-Meier survival curves and Cox proportional hazards models to evaluate mortality.

Results: Compared to the standardized pathologic review histotype, agreement across approaches was high (kappa = 0.892 for historic, and 0.849 for IHC integrated histotype), but the IHC integrated histotype identified more low-grade serous carcinomas and a subset of endometrioid carcinomas that were assigned as high-grade serous (n = 25). No substantial differences in histotype-specific mortality were observed across approaches.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that histotype assignment is fairly consistent regardless of classification approach, but that progressive improvements in classification accuracy for some less common histotypes are achieved with pathologic review using the 2014 WHO criteria and with IHC integration. We additionally recommend a classification scheme to fit historic data into the 2014 WHO categories to answer histotype-specific research questions.

Keywords: Histotype; Ovarian carcinoma; Stage; Survival.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Carcinoma / classification
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma / mortality
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / classification
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ovary / pathology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • World Health Organization*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor