What`s new in adrenal cancer research and treatment?
Research focused on adrenal cancer is currently under way. Imaging tests for diagnosing this cancer, medical laboratory tests to more accurately distinguish adenomas from carcinomas, and new treatments are being studied. Progress in this research tends to be slow because adrenal cancer is so rare. Other studies of more general aspects of cancer that can be applied to adrenal cancers as well as other types of cancers are also being done.
Some clinical trials currently under way are testing new combinations of chemotherapy (chemo) drugs. One study found that using gemcitabine and 5-FU together could be helpful to patients with advanced adrenal cortical cancer.
Another recently finished study compared two chemotherapies, cisplatin, etoposide, doxorubicin (CDP) with mitotane vs. streptozotocin with mitotane in patients with advanced adrenal cancer. Although cancers in the CDP group were more likely to shrink or stop growing, the patients in both groups lived about the same amount of time.
One ongoing important study is testing the value of mitotane in the treatment of patients with early stage adrenal cancers that have been removed with surgery. The goal of the study is to see if mitotane lowers the chance of the cancer coming back and helps patients live longer.
Several clinical trials are studying targeted therapies, either by themselves, or in combination with other drugs such as mitotane. Targeted therapies are a group of newer drugs that take advantage of gene changes in cells that cause cancer. They generally cause fewer and less severe side effects than usual chemo. These drugs have been effective for several more common types of cancer but their value for adrenal cancer is still not known. Two recent studies explored the effect of drugs that block a certain hormone called insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2). IGF2 is suspected to increase growth of adrenal cancers and therefore blocking this substance may slow down tumor growth. The results of these studies will hopefully be published soon.
Scientists are learning how changes in certain oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes can cause normal adrenal cortex cells to become cancerous. Understanding these genetic changes will help doctors develop better methods of diagnosing this disease as well as treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects than ones currently available. Medical centers involved in research may ask their patients for blood samples and about diseases in other family members in order to learn more about adrenal cancer. This happens usually as part of studies. These studies are different from treatment studies. The goal of these studies is to enhance research of this rare cancer, to learn more about how adrenal cancer forms, and in the future find new targets for adrenal cancer therapy.
Last Medical Review: 11/07/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013