The importance of the steroid hormones in cancer chemotherapy lies in the fact that cancers arising from tissues modified by these substances may retain some of the hormonal responsiveness of their tissue of origin. Thus, administration of hormones to alter the hormonal imbalance in the body of a patient may-cause regression of the cancer.

Androgens, male sex hormones, cause temporary objective regressions in about 20 percent of patients with breast cancer, and are especially useful in premenopausal women.

Estrogens, female sex hormones, when used judiciously are useful in the palliation of disseminated cancer of the prostate and metastatic breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Adrenal Cortical Hormonal Compounds. include hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex (cortisone and hydrocortisone) and synthetic compounds capable of producing essentially similar physiologic effects (prednisone and prednisolone). The compounds in this group destroy the white blood cells called lymphocytes and are used most often in combination with other drugs for treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia and undifferentiated leukemia in children.

Undesirable reactions caused by hormonal compounds include feminization following administration of estrogens, masculinization due to influence of androgens, and Cushingoid manifestations (such as "moon" face and abnormal development of fat on the neck and trunk) due to effects of the corticosteroids.

hormone producing gland locations

Chemical substances, called hormones, are produced by the endocrine organs, such as the pituitary in the brain, thyroid in the neck, and adrenal glands, as well as such other glandular organs as the ovaries and pancreas. Cancers arising from tissues modified by these substances may retain some of the hormonal responsiveness of their tissue of origin and may regress temporarily when the appropriate hormone is administered. Steroid hormones, including male and female sex hormones, and adrenal cortical hormonal compounds (such as cortisone, secreted by the adrenal cortex: and prednisone, a synthetic compound producing essentially similar physiologic effects) have been found useful as cancer drugs.

The mechanism of action of steroid hormones upon responsive cells is still uncertain. Various suggested mechanisms have included effects on RNA production, protein synthesis, and multiple enzyme systems.