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ACS Research Highlights

Ovarian Cancer May Start in Fallopian Tube Cells 

By studying fallopian tube cells from cancer-free women, researchers learned more about the origin of the most deadly type of ovarian cancer.

The Challenge

The most common type of ovarian cancer is a high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma(HGSC). This cancer is aggressive, and it’s often not detected until after it has spread (metastasized) outside of the ovaries. Of all the types of ovarian cancer, HGSC has the lowest 5-year survival rate.

Ovarian cancers were previously believed to begin only in the ovaries, but recent evidence suggests that many ovarian cancers actually start in the cells in the far (distal) end of the fallopian tubes. Very little is known about the types of cells in the fallopian tubes that can cause ovarian cancer.

The Research

ACS grantee Kate Lawrenson, PhD, and her team are learning about the cells in the fallopian tubes that can become cancerous and progress to ovarian cancer.

We found a lot of heterogeneity within the epithelium of the fallopian tube, including a population of cells that share molecular features with advanced tumors, suggesting they may be the main cell precursors of high-grade serous tumors."

Kate Lawrenson, PhD

Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles

American Cancer Society Research Grantee

White woman with wavy blonde hair, longer than shoulders, wearing white lab coat

Lawrenson recently published results from her study of 12 fallopian tube samples from 8 women without cancer. She and her team used a technique known as droplet-based single-cell RNA sequencing to profile the genes in 53,000 individual cells in the lab, looking for the likely cell type that leads to HGSC.

By mapping the major cell types, Lawrenson identified 10 epithelial subpopulations and narrowed the likely precursor state for most HGSCs as an “early secretory” population. The team determined that this cell has characteristics similar to a type of ovarian cancer that doesn’t have successful treatment options.

Why It Matters

Understanding the cellular makeup of the human fallopian tube in cancer-free women is expected to advance the understanding of the earliest stages of ovarian cancer. That knowledge can help lead to the development of more effective ways to detect and, maybe even prevent, ovarian cancer.