Women with clinically detected high-grade serous carcinomas (HGSC) generally present with advanced-stage disease, which portends a poor prognosis, despite extensive surgery and intensive chemotherapy. Historically, HGSCs were presumed to arise from the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE), but the inability to identify early-stage HGSCs and their putative precursors in the ovary dimmed prospects for advancing our knowledge of the pathogenesis of these tumors and translating these findings into effective prevention strategies. Over the last decade, increased BRCA1/2 mutation testing coupled with performance of risk-reducing surgeries has enabled studies that have provided strong evidence that many, but probably not all, HGSCs among BRCA1/2 mutation carriers appear to arise from the fallopian tubes, rather than from the ovaries. This shift in our understanding of the pathogenesis of HGSCs provides an important opportunity to achieve practice changing advances; however, the scarcity of clinically annotated tissues containing early lesions, particularly among women at average risk, poses challenges to progress. Accordingly, we review studies that have kindled our evolving understanding of the pathogenesis of HGSC and present the rationale for developing an epidemiologically annotated national specimen resource to support this research. Cancer Prev Res; 9(9); 713–20. ©2016 AACR.
- Received November 9, 2015.
- Revision received March 30, 2016.
- Accepted May 8, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.