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Open Access Review

Technical challenges and limitations of current mouse models of ovarian cancer

Kenneth Garson1, Lisa F Gamwell12, Elizabeth MG Pitre12 and Barbara C Vanderhyden12*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Cancer Therapeutics, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L6, Canada

2 Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1H 8M5, Canada

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Journal of Ovarian Research 2012, 5:39  doi:10.1186/1757-2215-5-39

Published: 29 November 2012


The development of genetically engineered models (GEM) of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) has been very successful, with well validated models representing high grade and low grade serous adenocarcinomas and endometrioid carcinoma (EC). Most of these models were developed using technologies intended to target the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE), the cell type long believed to be the origin of EOC. More recent evidence has highlighted what is likely a more prevalent role of the secretory cell of the fallopian tube in the ontogeny of EOC, however none of the GEM of EOC have demonstrated successful targeting of this important cell type.

The precise technologies exploited to develop the existing GEM of EOC are varied and carry with them advantages and disadvantages. The use of tissue specific promoters to model disease has been very successful, but the lack of any truly specific OSE or oviductal secretory cell promoters makes the outcomes of these models quite unpredictable. Effecting genetic change by the administration of adenoviral vectors expressing Cre recombinase may alleviate the perceived need for tissue specific promoters, however the efficiencies of infection of different cell types is subject to numerous biological parameters that may lead to preferential targeting of certain cell populations.

One important future avenue of GEM of EOC is the evaluation of the role of genetic modifiers. We have found that genetic background can lead to contrasting phenotypes in one model of ovarian cancer, and data from other laboratories have also hinted that the exact genetic background of the model may influence the resulting phenotype. The different genetic backgrounds may modify the biology of the tumors in a manner that will be relevant to human disease, but they may also be modifying parameters which impact the response of the host to the technologies employed to develop the model.

Ovarian cancer; Mouse models; Genetically engineered; Ovary; Oviduct; Ovarian surface epithelium