Role of endocrine and growth factors on the ovarian surface epithelium

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Epithelial ovarian cancer is a highly fatal disease for which prevention strategies have been limited; in part because of our poor understanding of the underlying biology of its precursor, the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE). The OSE is a single layer of flat-to-cuboidal mesothelial cells that covers the surface of the ovary. Despite its inconspicuous appearance in vivo, it is believed that OSE cells actively participate in the cyclical ovulatory rupture and repair process. The continuous rupture of the OSE at ovulation and the subsequent proliferation to repair the wound renders the cells susceptible to genetic damage and malignant transformation. As the ovary is a rich source of multiple hormones, and normal OSE and ovarian carcinomas secrete and have receptors for hormones, growth factors and cytokines, these factors are strong candidates to regulate normal OSE physiology and the transformation and progression of ovarian cancers. In particular, alterations of hormone/growth factor production and receptor expression are common in ovarian tumors. This review summarizes the current knowledge in the field of endocrinology and its relationship to the biology and pathology of the OSE.

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