Characterization of TP53-wildtype tubo-ovarian high-grade serous carcinomas: rare exceptions to the binary classification of ovarian serous carcinoma

Mod Pathol. 2021 Feb;34(2):490-501. doi: 10.1038/s41379-020-00648-y. Epub 2020 Aug 15.


While TP53 mutation is widely considered to be a defining feature of tubo-ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC), rare TP53-mutation-negative cases have been reported. To gain further insight into this rare subset, a retrospective review was conducted on 25 TP53-wildtype tubo-ovarian HGSCs, constituting 2.5% of 987 HGSCs profiled by the MSK-IMPACT sequencing platform. Consistent with serous differentiation, positive staining for Pax8 and WT1 was present in virtually all TP53-wildtype HGSCs. Other characteristic features of HGSC, such as serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma, or genetic alterations of CCNE1 and BRCA1/2 were identified in these tumors, furthering supporting their classification as bona fide HGSC, despite lacking TP53 mutations. Overall, the level of chromosomal instability of TP53-wildtype HGSCs was intermediate between low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC) and TP53-mutated HGSC. Morphologic assessment by observers blinded to mutation status revealed a significant subset of tumors with Grade 2 nuclear atypia (which exceeds the degree of atypia allowed for LGSC, but less than typically encountered for HGSC) combined with micropapillary features (6/19, 32%, chemotherapy-naive TP53-wildtype HGSCs compared to 0/21, 0%, TP53-mutated HGSCs; p = 0.007). Some TP53-wildtype HGSCs harbored driver mutations in KRAS (n = 3), BRAF (n = 1) or NRAS (n = 2). Overall, 10 (40%) cases had "LGSC-like" morphology (i.e., Grade 2 nuclear atypia and micropapillary features) and/or RAS/RAF mutation, and most of these showed a wildtype p53 pattern of expression by immunohistochemistry (7/9, 78%). The remaining TP53-wildtype HGSCs (n = 15, 60%) exhibited severe nuclear atypia (Grade 3) and were morphologically indistinguishable from conventional TP53-mutated HGSC. Despite lacking genetic alterations of TP53, these "usual HGSC-like" tumors often showed evidence of p53 dysfunction, including downregulation of expression ('null' or equivocal p53 staining in 9/14, 64%) or MDM2 amplification (n = 2). Our results support the existence of TP53-wildtype HGSCs, which comprise a heterogeneous group of tumors which may arise via distinct pathogenic mechanisms.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / genetics
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53


  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53