Predictive, Preventive, Participatory, and Personalized Health

The Duplicitous Origin of Ovarian Cancer

Gil Mor and Ayesha Alvero


The past few decades have seen many advances in the treatment of a variety of cancers. Unfortunately, for ovarian cancer, which is the most lethal type of gynecologic malignancy, no new therapeutic approach has been successfully introduced since the 1990s. Ovarian cancer is usually detected in later stages, when remission rates are high and tumors are resistant to chemotherapy. Little is known about the primary lesion in ovarian cancer. Recently, it has been shown that the origin of ovarian cancer can be cells from adjacent tissue or cells from other primary tumors, which make their way to the ovaries due to the unique nature of their microenvironment during ovulation. The tumor in ovarian cancer is heterogeneous and hierarchically organized. In this review, we discuss the role of ovarian cancer stem cells in the process of tumor formation and recurrence. We propose the need to shift the paradigm away from the classification of ovarian cancer as a single disease with a single cellular origin. Understanding the complexity of the disease will facilitate devising new methods for fighting this cancer and improving the life of many women inflicted with the disease.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2013;4(1):e0006