Eisenberger MA, Blumenstein BA, Crawford ED, Miller G, McLeod DG, Loehrer PJ, Wilding G, Sears K, Culkin DJ, Thompson, IM Jr,
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 1, 2001
Reviewers: Kenneth Blank, MD
Source: New England Journal of Medicine 339 (15):1036
Prostate cancer is a hormone sensitive tumor in that prostate cancer cells need the hormone testosterone to grow and divide. When testosterone isremoved the majority of cells die. However, a few prostate cancer cells remain and these can grow without the stimulation provided bytestosterone (these are termed hormone insensitive). With time these few cells grow into a large tumor and eventually metastasize (spread to otherplaces in the body) leading to the patients decline.
The testis produces ninety percent of the body's testosterone and the other 10% is secreted by the adrenal glands. Several strategies have beendevised to rid the body of testosterone and therefore slow down the growth of prostate cancer. These include surgical removal of the testes(orchiectomy) and prescribing oral medications called leutenizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists. One potential problem with thesetherapies are that they only effect testosterone made by the testis not the adrenal gland. Another class of medications called anti-androgensfunction to block uptake of testosterone into the cell. The use of LHRH agonists or orchiectomy in combination with an anti-estrogen is calledcombined androgen (androgen is the generic term for testosterone) blockage as both adrenal and testicular testosterone are removed from thecancer cell.
The October 8, 1998 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports on a trial examining this issue. 1387 men underwent surgical removalof their testes and were then randomly assigned to either receive a placebo or an anti-androgen (flutamide).