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Mod Pathol. 1996 Mar;9(3):166-73.

Ovarian, peritoneal, and endometrial serous carcinoma: clonal origin of multifocal disease.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The clonality of disseminated serous carcinoma involving the ovary, peritoneum, and, occasionally, the endometrium is controversial. Histopathologic examination alone cannot unequivocally distinguish between a monoclonal origin and a multicentric origin. Two patients with peritoneal serous carcinoma with minimal ovarian involvement (one with endometrial serous carcinoma), nine patients with stage III bilateral ovarian carcinoma, and one patient with stage III bilateral carcinosarcoma were studied for clonality. One patient with ovarian carcinoma that recurred after chemotherapy was also studied. Previous analyses of single frozen tumor specimens from these patients had identified different p53 gene mutations in each patient. To test the hypothesis that the disseminated cancers had a monoclonal origin, we assayed DNA from numerous foci from each patient to determine whether the known p53 mutation was present in each specimen. Identical mutations were detected in the tumor foci from each patient with peritoneal dissemination and minimal ovarian involvement, including one patient with an endometrial serous carcinoma as well. In all the patients with bilateral ovarian cancer, the genetic change in p53 was identical in both ovarian tumors. Genetic progression was observed in two patients, one of whom showed a loss of heterozygosity involving the p53 gene in a recurrent tumor. In the second patient, a p53 mutation not present in either ovarian tumor was detected in a metastatic tumor from the omentum. These results strongly suggest that disseminated serous carcinomas, whether primary in the ovary, endometrium, or peritoneum, are of monoclonal rather than multicentric origin; that bilateral stage III ovarian cancers are typically of monoclonal origin; and that additional genetic events involving p53 might occur during progression of these tumors.

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