CM King, C Barbara, A Prentice, JD Brenton, DS Charnock-Jones
Endometriosis is a common benign gynaecological condition affecting at least 10% of women of childbearing age and is characterized by pain--frequently debilitating. Although the exact prevalence is unknown, the economic burden is substantial (∼$50 billion a year in the USA alone) and it is associated with considerable morbidity. The development of endometriosis is inextricably linked to the process of menstruation and thus the models that best recapitulate the human disease are in menstruating non-human primates. However, the use of these animals is ethically challenging and very expensive. A variety of models in laboratory animals have been developed and the most recent are based on generating menstrual-like endometrial tissue that can be transferred to a recipient animal. These models are genetically manipulable and facilitate precise mechanistic studies. In addition, these models can be used to study malignant transformation in epithelial ovarian carcinoma. Epidemiological and molecular evidence indicates that endometriosis is the most plausible precursor of both clear cell and endometrioid ovarian cancer (OCCA and OEA, respectively). While this progression is rare, understanding the underlying mechanisms of transformation may offer new strategies for prevention and therapy. Our ability to pursue this is highly dependent on improved animal models but the current transgenic models, which genetically modify the ovarian surface epithelium and oviduct, are poor models of ectopic endometrial tissue. In this review we describe the various models of endometriosis and discuss how they may be applicable to developing our mechanistic understanding of OCCA and OEA.