Drug interactions with mitotane by induction of CYP3A4 metabolism in the clinical management of adrenocortical carcinoma

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2011 Nov;75(5):585-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2011.04214.x.


Mitotane [1-(2-chlorophenyl)-1-(4-chlorophenyl)-2,2-dichloroethane, (o,p'-DDD)] is the only drug approved for the treatment for adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) and has also been used for various forms of glucocorticoid excess. Through still largely unknown mechanisms, mitotane inhibits adrenal steroid synthesis and adrenocortical cell proliferation. Mitotane increases hepatic metabolism of cortisol, and an increased replacement dose of glucocorticoids is standard of care during mitotane treatment. Recently, sunitinib, a multityrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI), has been found to be rapidly metabolized by CYP3A4 during mitotane treatment, indicating clinically relevant drug interactions with mitotane. We here summarize the current evidence concerning mitotane-induced changes in hepatic monooxygenase expression, list drugs potentially affected by mitotane-related CYP3A4 induction and suggest alternatives. For example, using standard doses of macrolide antibiotics is unlikely to reach sufficient plasma levels, making fluoroquinolones in many cases a superior choice. Similarly, statins such as simvastatin are metabolized by CYP3A4, whereas others like pravastatin are not. Importantly, in the past, several clinical trials using cytotoxic drugs but also targeted therapies in ACC yielded disappointing results. This lack of antineoplastic activity may be explained in part by insufficient drug exposure owing to enhanced drug metabolism induced by mitotane. Thus, induction of CYP3A4 by mitotane needs to be considered in the design of future clinical trials in ACC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma / enzymology
  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A / metabolism*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacokinetics
  • Indoles / therapeutic use
  • Mitotane / pharmacokinetics
  • Mitotane / therapeutic use*
  • Pyrroles / pharmacokinetics
  • Pyrroles / therapeutic use
  • Sunitinib


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Indoles
  • Pyrroles
  • Mitotane
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Sunitinib