• ovarian cancer;
  • field-carcinogenesis;
  • endocervix;
  • nano-architecture;
  • endometrium

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer fatalities among American women. Although curable at early stages with surgery, most women are diagnosed with symptoms of late-stage metastatic disease. Moreover, none of the current diagnostic techniques are clinically recommended for at-risk women as they preferentially target low-grade tumors (which do not affect longevity) and fail to capture early signatures of more lethal serous tumors which originate in the fimbrae region of the fallopian tubes. Hence, the early detection of ovarian cancer is challenging given the current strategy. Recently, our group has developed a novel optical imaging technique, partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy, that can quantify the nanoscale macromolecular density fluctuations within biological cells via a biomarker, disorder strength (Ld). Using the concept of field carcinogenesis, we propose a method of detecting ovarian cancer by PWS assessment of endometrial and endocervical columnar cells. The study includes 26 patients (controls = 15, cancer = 11) for endometrium and 23 (controls = 13, cancer = 10) for endocervix. Our results highlight a significant increase in Ld (% fold-increase > 50%, p-value < 0.05) for columnar epithelial cells obtained from cancer patients compared to controls for both endocervix and endometrium. Overall, the quantification of field carcinogenic events in the endometrium and the novel observation of its extension to the cervix are unique findings in the understanding of ovarian field carcinogenesis. We further show independent validation of the presence of cervical field carcinogenesis with micro-RNA expression data.