Hormone Therapy 26 Prostate Cancer

Hormone therapy for prostate cancer requires the manipulation of the hormones in the male body that have been implicated, not as causal factors for the disease, but in the progression and growth of the adenocarcinoma. It has been long established that some forms of cancer depend in hormones in the body to fuel their growth. prostate type of cancer in particular relies on the male endocrines testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in order to progress.

More specifically, testosterone produced in the testicles works with dehydroepiandrosterone secreted by the adrenal glands and causes the prostate gland to produce DHT. In the presence of DHT, certain forms of prostate cancer are able to grow faster. It was Nobel laureate Charles Brenton Huggins who first castrated a dog to determine that prostate carcinoma tumors in the dog mostly ceased to grow within a few days, and some actually started to shrink. The castration stopped the body’s production of testosterone, thereby compromising the synthesis of DHT.

Hormonal therapy seeks to interrupt the production of DHT at any point during the cycle of its manufacture. By surgically removing a man’s testicles (process called orchiectomy), testosterone production is hampered. However, sometimes there is need for other medications to further inhibit DHT production in the body. Also, there are instances in which men prefer taking oral and topical treatments to undergoing the surgery because of the invasiveness of the latter procedure. To that end, there are several treatments also that can function well enough in that category.

To mention a few, there are drugs like leuprolide (sold as Lupron, Eligard, or Viadur in the United States) or goserelin (Zoladex). These are called GnRH (gonadotropine releasing hormone). But there are also antiandrogens such as bicalutamide (Casodex) or flutamide (Eulexin). They either block the production of the hormone testosterone, or interfere with the process that makes DHT production possible anywhere along the line.

Hormone treatments are indeed favored because of their ability to slow the progression of prostate cancer cells; however they are limited in the regard that they do not actually cure the disease. As a matter of fact, a patient who has been on hormone treatments for over a year is at risk of the cancer becoming resistant to the therapy and resuming its growth. For such reasons as these, hormonal therapy not used quite as often to treat early stage prostate type of cancer, but instead on advanced metastatic disease to aid palliation.

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