Blockade of testicular and adrenal androgens in prostate cancer treatment

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Prostate cancer is the most hormone sensitive of all cancers. However, any hormonal therapeutic strategy must take into account the fact that two almost equivalent sources of androgens act in the prostate, namely testosterone of testicular origin, and the locally produced androgens testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) derived from dehydroepiandrosterone of adrenal origin. Combined androgen blockade—medical or surgical castration plus a pure antiandrogen—would, therefore, be the logical first-line treatment for prostate cancer, although castration or an antiandrogen alone is still chosen in the majority of cases. Although long-term control, or even cure, is possible when combined androgen blockade is used when the tumor is localized, resistance to treatment invariably develops in patients when start of treatment is delayed until the disease has become metastatic. This observation can be explained either by elevated levels of the androgen receptor, which can increase the response to low levels of androgens and also modify the response to antiandrogens; or by local biosynthesis of androgens. Research to identify new and more potent antiandrogens, as well as blockers of peripheral and adrenal androgen biosynthesis—such as abiraterone —could be of great importance.

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