New Clues About Origins of Ovarian Cancer

According to research published in March 6 in the journal Nature, researchers have discovered a possible origin of epithelial ovarian cancer.

The origin of ovarian cancer is unclear, making the development of a method of early detection very difficult.  Scientists know that some epithelial cancers occur in transitional zones between two types of epithelium (layers of tissue that line the body and organs and form glands), while others originate in epithelial tissue stem cells. All organs have the capacity for regeneration, which is done by adult stem cells located in areas of each organ called stem cell niches.

With this knowledge, researchers from Cornell have discovered a novel stem cell niche for the ovarian surface epithelium in mice and showed that ovarian carcinoma preferentially originates from stem cells found in that niche. This stem cell niche lies in a transitional area known as the hilum region, a layer of cells that links the ovary to the rest of the body.

Knowing where these cells are located in mice will allow researchers to examine those areas in humans, and also suggest that scientists should look for stem cell niches and sources of cancer in similar areas in other organs.

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