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Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)

Health Professional Version

Stage I Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors


Standard treatment options:

  1. Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with or without lymphangiography or computed tomography (CT).
  2. Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy followed by observation.
  3. Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with adjuvant radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

For patients with stage I dysgerminoma, unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy conserving the uterus and opposite ovary is accepted treatment of the younger patient who wants to preserve fertility or a pregnancy. Postoperative lymphangiography or CT is indicated before treatment decisions are made for patients who have not had careful surgical and pathological examination of pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes during surgery. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Sexuality and Reproductive Issues for more information on fertility.)

Patients who have been completely staged and have stage IA tumors may be observed carefully after surgery without adjuvant treatment. About 15% to 25% of these patients will relapse, but they can be treated successfully at the time of recurrence with a high likelihood of cure.

Incompletely staged patients or those with higher stage tumors should probably receive adjuvant treatment. Options include radiation therapy or chemotherapy. A disadvantage of the former is loss of fertility resulting from ovarian failure. Experience with adjuvant chemotherapy is limited, but considering the effectiveness of chemotherapy in tumors other than dysgerminoma and in advanced stage dysgerminoma, adjuvant chemotherapy is likely to be very effective and to allow recovery of reproductive potential in patients with an intact ovary, fallopian tube, and uterus.[1]

Other Germ Cell Tumors

Standard treatment options:

  1. Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with adjuvant chemotherapy.
  2. Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy followed by observation.

For patients with stage I germ cell tumors, unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy should be performed when fertility is to be preserved. For all patients with tumors other than pure dysgerminoma and low-grade (grade I) immature teratoma, chemotherapy is usually given postoperatively, although a series demonstrated excellent survival for patients with all types of stage I tumors managed by surveillance, reserving chemotherapy for cases in which postsurgery recurrence is documented.[2][Level of evidence: 3iiiA]

There is considerable experience with a combination of vincristine, dactinomycin, and cyclophosphamide (VAC) given in an adjuvant setting; however, combinations containing cisplatin, etoposide, and bleomycin (BEP) are now preferred because of a lower relapse rate and shorter treatment time.[3] While a prospective comparison of VAC versus BEP has not been performed, in well-staged patients with completely resected tumors, relapse is essentially unheard of following platinum-based chemotherapy.[3] However, the disease will recur in about 25% of well-staged patients treated with 6 months of VAC.[4]

Evidence suggests that second-look laparotomy is not beneficial in patients with initially completely resected tumors who receive cisplatin-based adjuvant treatment.[5,6]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I ovarian germ cell tumor. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Thomas GM, Dembo AJ, Hacker NF, et al.: Current therapy for dysgerminoma of the ovary. Obstet Gynecol 70 (2): 268-75, 1987. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Dark GG, Bower M, Newlands ES, et al.: Surveillance policy for stage I ovarian germ cell tumors. J Clin Oncol 15 (2): 620-4, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Williams S, Blessing JA, Liao SY, et al.: Adjuvant therapy of ovarian germ cell tumors with cisplatin, etoposide, and bleomycin: a trial of the Gynecologic Oncology Group. J Clin Oncol 12 (4): 701-6, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Slayton RE, Park RC, Silverberg SG, et al.: Vincristine, dactinomycin, and cyclophosphamide in the treatment of malignant germ cell tumors of the ovary. A Gynecologic Oncology Group Study (a final report). Cancer 56 (2): 243-8, 1985. [PUBMED Abstract]
  5. Williams SD, Blessing JA, DiSaia PJ, et al.: Second-look laparotomy in ovarian germ cell tumors: the gynecologic oncology group experience. Gynecol Oncol 52 (3): 287-91, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. Gershenson DM: The obsolescence of second-look laparotomy in the management of malignant ovarian germ cell tumors. Gynecol Oncol 52 (3): 283-5, 1994. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: March 7, 2014