UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of Mullerian differentiation in epithelial ovarian carcinogenesis Woo, Michelle


Ovarian cancer is a fatal disease because of the lack of symptoms and markers for early detection. Most ovarian neoplasms resemble and are classified according to the complex characteristics of Mullerian duct epithelia. We tested the hypothesis that Mullerian epithelial characteristics influence early ovarian neoplastic progression. The most common type of ovarian cancer is the serous carcinoma which resembles Mullerian-derived oviductal epithelium. We discovered that oviduct-specific glycoprotein (OVGP1), a tubal differentiation marker, was present in inclusion cysts, which are the preferential sites for malignant transformation, and in most low grade serous tumors, but absent in ovarian surface epithelium and most high grade carcinomas. OVGP1 was almost entirely limited to ovarian neoplasms with the notable exception of endometrial hyperplasia and carcinoma. A new antibody against OVGP1 detected elevated serum levels from most women with low grade ovarian cancers compared to normal controls. OVGP1 also identified a subset of patients with high grade serous carcinomas who had a more favorable outcome. To examine whether the differentiated phenotype of early ovarian neoplasms alters invasiveness, we established the first permanent cell line for serous borderline ovarian tumors (SBOT), which are differentiated but noninvasive. The results revealed a striking phenotypic similarity between two lines regardless of their cytogenetic diversity. They retained Mullerian epithelial characteristics in vitro, as demonstrated by their morphologic appearance and the differentiation markers keratin, E-cadherin, CA125 and OVGP1. Neither disruption of the growth pattern nor manipulations of the cadherin profile induced invasivenesss. Induction of invasiveness by SV40 early genes was associated with a loss in morphologic differentiation and of differentiation markers but increased motility. MMP secretion was independent of the invasion status. Our findings indicate that OVGP1 is an indicator of early ovarian epithelial neoplasia. It can be detected in the sera from women with early ovarian cancer, and thus, may be a new promising diagnostic marker for the early detection of ovarian cancer. In addition, the results show that Mullerian differentiation does not directly prevent invasiveness, but it diminishes in parallel with invasion caused by other factors. The lack of invasiveness by SBOT cells may depend on factors that regulate motility.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International