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Cancer. 2004 Feb 25;102(1):1-10.

Cytology of human ovarian surface epithelial brushings.

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Department of Pathology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.



The human ovarian surface epithelium (HOSE) is the putative source of ovarian epithelial cancer, the most lethal gynecologic malignancy that affects women in the United States. The current study was designed to provide a database of normal HOSE cell features for diagnostic and research applications.


HOSE was harvested from 42 women undergoing laparoscopy or laparotomy for benign gynecologic disorders, infertility problems, or pregnancy. Of the 42 women, 12 were postovulatory and 20 were receiving hormonal regimens. Cells were harvested with a sterile brush inserted through a laparoscopic port or with a sterile cell scraper at laparotomy.


Two HOSE populations were identified, ranging in size from 8 to 10 microm and from 15 to 20 microm, respectively. The cells measuring 15-20 microm exhibited slight anisonucleosis, more prominent nucleoli, fine cytoplasmic metachromasia, and an overall reparative or squamoid morphology. Cells were single or arranged in small clusters, sheets, or papillae. They coexpressed cytokeratin and vimentin but did not overexpress p53. Cellularity and proliferation (up to 3.2% +/- 0.8) were higher and papillae more frequent in postovulatory and cyst-bearing ovaries, including polycystic ovaries, suggesting underlying ovarian or hormonal influences. Representative HOSE brushings yielded a mean of 23,133 cells per patient (range, 4250-64,500 cells), equivalent to an estimated 0.58, 0.46, and 0.14 microg of nuclear protein, cell RNA, and nuclear DNA, respectively. Within 7-10 days of explantation, HOSE cells formed confluent monolayers with immunohistochemical and ultrastructural epithelial features.


The current study defined baseline features of HOSE cells important to pathologists and clinicians evaluating women at risk for ovarian epithelial cancer and to researchers investigating the pathobiology of this aggressive gynecologic malignancy.

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