Hormone (Androgen Deprivation) Therapy – Prostate Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system.

What causes prostate cancer?

Male hormone called androgen causes the growth of the prostate gland. There are several types of cells in the prostate gland and nearly all types of prostate cancer begin in the gland. As a result the gland starts growing in size and infection may spread to other parts of the body too. Invariable the gland increases in size because of large amount of hormone (androgen) secretion.

There are a number of ways to treat and prevent prostate cancer of which ‘Hormone therapy treatment’ is one. Hormone therapy also known as ‘androgen deprivation therapy’ is one of the primary treatment options for prostate cancer.

How does it work?

Androgen is produced at a much higher level in men. It is primarily produced in the testicles, but the adrenal gland situated at the top of the kidney also produces small amount of it. The basic principal behind this treatment is to block the production or effect of androgen in the body and thus slow the growth of the prostate cancer cells. Thus there are two groups of drugs that are administered to block the production of androgen in the testicles.

Luteinizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone (LHRH) Agonists and Antagonists

These two group of drugs work by blocking the hormones that cause the production of androgen. It also lowers the level of testosterone (the most well known androgen) in the body.

They are administered via implant under the skin or as injections. Common drugs in this category include ‘leuprolide, goserelin, triptorelin and abarelix’.

However these drugs are expensive and require frequent visit to the physician.

How can androgen be blocked from working in the body?

Anti- androgen medication also exists that do not block the production of the hormone but stops their function in the body. They are used while LHRH agonists and antagonists are being used. They are rarely used alone.

Anti-androgen blocks the function of androgens throughout the body regardless whether they are produced in the testicles or adrenal gland. They are usually given as pills that are to be taken every day.

Common medication in this category include ‘flutamide (Eulexin) and bicalutamide (Casodex)’

Due to the invention of hormone treatment most patients avoid surgery (Orchiectomy).