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Neoadjuvant therapy in gynaecological malignancies: What pathologists need to know
  1. Aoife J McCarthy1,2,
  2. Marjan Rouzbahman1,2,
  3. Sakinah A Thiryayi1,2,
  4. William B Chapman1,2,
  5. Blaise A Clarke1,2
  1. 1 Department of Anatomical Pathology, Laboratory Medicine Program, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aoife J McCarthy, Department of Anatomical Pathology, Laboratory Medicine Program, University Health Network, Toronto, ON M5G 2C4, Canada; aoife.mccarthy{at}


In recent times, there has been a growing tendency to treat advanced gynaecological malignancies with neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT), with the goal of reducing tumour volume and enhancing operability resulting in optimal cytoreduction. This approach is used in particular for patients with advanced high-grade serous carcinoma of the ovary, fallopian tube or peritoneum. Pathology plays a crucial role in the management of these patients, both before and after NACT. Prior to initiation of NACT, a biopsy should be performed, usually of the omental cake, to confirm that a malignancy is present, to identify the site of origin of the tumour and to type and grade the tumour. Histopathologists must be aware of the resultant morphological effects of NACT when examining specimens following interval cytoreduction surgery. Tumour typing and grading, and even the identification of residual neoplasia, are particular challenges. Immunohistochemistry, when used judiciously, can be a useful adjunct in certain scenarios. A pathological assessment of the response to chemotherapy, and the pathological stage should be provided in the pathology report, as these may inform prognosis and subsequent management. We present a comprehensive overview of the relevant clinical and pathological aspects pertaining to NACT for gynaecological malignancies for the practicing surgical pathologist.

  • chemotherapy effect
  • immunohistochemistry
  • morphology
  • neoadjuvant therapy
  • ovarian cancer

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  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Contributors AJMC and BAC substantially contributed to the design of the work and acquired, analysed and interpreted the relevant literature. AJMC drafted the work. All authors revised it critically for important intellectual content and gave final approval of the version published.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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