Current Epidemiology Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 211–220 | Cite as

Challenges and Opportunities in Studying the Epidemiology of Ovarian Cancer Subtypes

  • Jennifer Anne DohertyEmail author
  • Lauren Cole Peres
  • Chen Wang
  • Gregory P. Way
  • Casey S. Greene
  • Joellen M. Schildkraut
Cancer Epidemiology (G Colditz, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cancer Epidemiology


Purpose of Review

Only recently has it become clear that epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is comprised of such distinct histotypes—with different cells of origin, morphology, molecular features, epidemiologic factors, clinical features, and survival patterns—that they can be thought of as different diseases sharing an anatomical location. Herein, we review opportunities and challenges in studying EOC heterogeneity,

Recent Findings

The 2014 World Health Organization diagnostic guidelines incorporate accumulated evidence that high- and low-grade serous tumors have different underlying pathogenesis, and that, on the basis of shared molecular features, most high-grade tumors, including some previously classified as endometrioid, are now considered to be high-grade serous. At the same time, several studies have reported that high-grade serous EOC, which is the most common histotype, is itself made up of reproducible subtypes discernable by gene expression patterns.


These major advances in understanding set the stage for a new era of research on EOC risk and clinical outcomes with the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality. We highlight the need for multidisciplinary studies with pathology review using the current guidelines, further molecular characterization of the histotypes and subtypes, inclusion of women of diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and updated epidemiologic and clinical data relevant to current generations of women at risk of EOC.


Epithelial ovarian cancer Histotype Gene expression subtype Survival Pathology 



We thank Dr. Mary Anne Rossing for her thoughtful insights on this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jennifer Anne Doherty reports grants from National Cancer Institute during the conduct of the study.

Lauren Cole Peres, Chen Wang, and Gregory P. Way each declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Casey S. Greene reports grants from Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation during the conduct of the study and personal fees from SomaLogic outside the submitted work.

Joellen M. Schildkraut reports grants from National Cancer Institute during the conduct of the study.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article contains no studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


The research reported in this publication was supported by Huntsman Cancer Foundation and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P30 CA042014, as well as R01 CA168758 (to JAD and MAR),R01 CA200854 to JAD and JMS, and R01 CA142081 (to JMS). It was also supported in part by a career enhancement award from the Mayo Clinic Ovarian Cancer SPORE to CW (P50 CA136393), and by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF4552) to CSG. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Anne Doherty
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lauren Cole Peres
    • 2
  • Chen Wang
    • 3
  • Gregory P. Way
    • 4
  • Casey S. Greene
    • 4
  • Joellen M. Schildkraut
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Population Health Sciences, Huntsman Cancer InstituteUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Sciences ResearchMayo Clinic, RochesterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, Perelman School of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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