Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract In 1941, Huggins and his colleagues discovered that testicular androgens exert a stimulatory effect on prostate cancer growth. Our group has made the key observations that the human adrenals, in addition to the tests, also secrete important amounts of androgens and cancer cells exhibit a marked heterogeneity of androgen sensitivity. In fact, human adrenals secrete large amounts of precursor steroids that are converted into active androgens in peripheral tissues (including the prostate), thus providing 40% to 50% of total androgens in adult men. The action of these androgens remaining after castration can be inhibited in prostatic cancer tissue by administering a pure antiandrogen that also decreases the local concentration of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The castration levels of serum testosterone left in men after castration have an important stimulatory activity on the growth of androgen-sensitive normal as well as cancer tissues. Cancer cells have markedly different requirements for androgens. Some cell clones can grow in the presence of minimal amounts of androgens, requiring more complete androgen blockade and more potent antiandrogens for inhibiting growth. Among the compounds recommended as antiandrogens, the most unexpected finding is that many of them are devoid of any antiandrogenic activity. In fact, medroxyprogesterone acetate, chlormadinone acetate, and megestrol acetate have androgenic activity, but do not inhibit the peripheral action of DHT in prostatic tissue. These compounds should not be classified as antiandrogens. Cyproterone acetate, on the other hand, is a mixed agonist-antagonist. The only compounds showing pure antiandrogenic activity are Flutamide and its analogues. There is thus a need for a more complete blockade of androgens of both testicular and adrenal origins in order to exert a maximal inhibitory effect on cancer growth. We have therefore performed clinical studies in previously untreated stage D2 and C prostate cancer patients with the combination therapy using the LHRH agonist [D-Trp6, des Gly NH2 10] LHRH ethylamide and the antiandrogen Flutamide. There was a significant increase in patients with a complete response, as compared with studies limited to the removal or blockade of testicular androgens. There was also a significant decrease in the number of non-responders, an increased duration of positive response, and a decrease in the death rate. This was achieved with minimal or no side effects, thus preserving a good quality of life.
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