Borderline ovarian tumors (BOTs), or ovarian tumors of low malignant potential, represent a distinct category of epithelial ovarian neoplasms that have a clinically more favorable outcome than invasive epithelial ovarian cancer. Histologically, BOTs and invasive ovarian carcinomas both show cellular proliferation and pleomorphism, but unlike invasive ovarian carcinomas, BOTs lack stromal invasion. Although serous BOTs are frequently confined to a single ovary at the time of diagnosis, bilateral or extra-ovarian spread occurs in 30–40% of cases.

The purpose of this study is to determine whether bilateral or extra-ovarian serous borderline lesions are metastatic sites from the original tumor, or represent separate primary tumors.

DNA specimens from multiple tumor sites and normal tissue controls were obtained in eight women with bilateral or extra-ovarian serous borderline tumors. The pattern of loss of heterozygosity at the androgen receptor locus on the X chromosome was evaluated in the multiple tumor sites. In addition, the pattern of X-chromosome inactivation was determined using HpaII restriction endonuclease digestion, followed by PCR amplification of the androgen receptor locus. Multifocality was determined when alternate patterns of X-chromosome inactivation occurred.

In two of the eight patients, the left and right ovarian tumor sites had different androgen receptor alleles inactivated, indicating that the bilateral tumors derived independently. In a third patient, the X inactivation pattern in the left ovarian tumor differed from the two peritoneal implants, suggesting that the implants were separate primary tumors, and not metastatic, from the left ovarian tumor. The remaining five patients had the same pattern of loss of heterozygosity and X inactivation in the tumor sites studied.

These results suggest that bilateral and advanced stage serous BOTs may be multifocal in origin. This result is in contrast to invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, which has been shown to be unifocal in origin.

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Supported by Public Health Service Grants R01CA69453, R01CA69291, and RO1CA63381 from the NIH, Department of Health and Human Services.

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