Advantages of total androgen blockade in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer

Semin Oncol. 1988 Apr;15(2 Suppl 1):53-61.


Total androgen blockade has been proposed as a better therapeutic technique than castration alone for the management of metastatic prostate cancer. This is based on the theory that links adrenal androgens to tumor growth. We have carefully examined the role of adrenal androgens in prostate cancer. Work done in our laboratory, as well as the work of many others, has demonstrated the following in regard to the role of adrenal androgens in prostate cancer: (1) The adrenal cortex secretes significant amounts of adrenal androgens into the blood. (2) Adrenal androgens are converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), as indicated by studies of labeled DHT recovered from prostates resected one-half hour after infusion of 3H-androstenedione or 3H-dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate into patients. We have also shown that biopsies of prostates from patients who were previously castrated may contain significant amounts of DHT, which could only be derived from adrenal androgens. (3) We have quantified DHT derived from adrenal androgens by measuring prostate DHT concentrations in castrates and in patients treated with combined gonadal and adrenal blockade. The mean difference between these two groups, 0.32 ng/g of DHT lower with combined blockade, is statistically significant and represents DHT derived from adrenal androgens. (4) We have also demonstrated that the small amounts of DHT derived from adrenal androgens may be biologically significant in stimulating prostatic epithelial cell protein synthesis in humans; others have reported similar findings in animals. (5) A review of patients in relapse after castration, who are treated with adrenal androgen blockade, indicates that approximately one out of three patients will show an objective remission based on National Prostate Cancer Project (NPCP) criteria. Despite data supporting the importance of adrenal androgens in prostate cancer, clinical trials using combined adrenal and gonadal blockade in prostate cancer have shown only modest benefit over castration. The largest and best study to date is the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) study, which did show a near-significant (P less than 0.065) difference between patients treated for 20 months with a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH) plus flutamide compared with LH-RH alone. The difference in median time to progression was approximately 2 months between the groups. However, when one considers the fact that two out of three patients are probably not responding to the total androgen blockade, the 2 month difference may actually represent 6 or more months in a subset of one-third of patients receiving that therapy.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / metabolism
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orchiectomy
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgens
  • Dihydrotestosterone