Characterization of stem cell and cancer stem cell populations in ovary and ovarian tumors

Seema C. Parte, Surinder K. Batra, Sham S. Kakar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Ovarian cancer is a complicated malady associated with cancer stem cells (CSCs) contributing to 238,700 estimated new cases and 151,900 deaths per year, worldwide. CSCs comprise a tiny fraction of tumor-bulk responsible for cancer recurrence and eventual mortality. CSCs or tumor initiating cells are responsible for self-renewal, differentiation and proliferative potential, tumor initiation capability, its progression, drug resistance and metastatic spread. Although several biomarkers are implicated in these processes, their distribution within the ovary and association with single cell type has neither been established nor demonstrated across ovarian tumor developmental stages. Therefore, precise identification, thorough characterization and effective targeted destruction of dormant and highly proliferating potent CSC populations is an immediate need. Results: In view of this, distribution of various CSC (ALDH1/2, C-KIT, CD133, CD24 and CD44) and cell proliferation (KI67) specific markers in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) and cortex regions in normal ovary, and benign, borderline and high grade metastatic ovarian tumors by immuno-histochemistry and confocal microscopy was studied. We further confirmed their expression by RT-PCR analysis. Co-expression analysis of stem cell (OCT4, SSEA4) and CSC (ALDH1/2, CD44 and LGR5) markers with proliferation marker (KI67) in HG tumors revealed dual positive proliferating stem and CSCs, few non-proliferating stem/CSC (SSEA4+/KI67- and ALDH1/2+/KI67-) and only KI67+ cells in cortex, signifying dynamic populations and interesting cellular hierarchy in cortex region. Smaller spherical (≤ 5 μm) and larger spindle/elliptical shaped (∼ 10 μm) cell populations with high nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio were detected across all samples (including normal ovaries) but with variable distribution and characteristic stage-wise marker expression across different tumor stages. Conclusions: Diverse stem and CSC populations expressing characteristic markers revealing distinct phenotypes (spherical ≤5 μm and spindle/elliptical ∼ 10 μm) were distributed within different tumor stages studied signifying dynamic and probable functional hierarchy within these cell types. Involvement of extra-ovarian sites of origin of stem and CSCs requires rigorous evaluation. Quantitative analysis of potent CSC populations, their mechanisms and pathways for self-renewal, chemo-resistance, metastatic spread etc. with respect to various markers studied, will provide better insights and targets for developing effective therapeutics to prevent metastasis and eventually help improve patient mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalJournal of Ovarian Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 18 2018


  • Cancer stem cells
  • High grade metastatic ovarian cancer
  • Ki67
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Ovarian cancer stem cells
  • Ovarian stem cells
  • Ovarian tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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