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What's New in Adrenal Cancer Research?

Important research on adrenal cancer currently is being done in hospitals and institutions around the world. Scientists are learning more about what causes the disease and how best to treat it. Progress in this research, however, tends to be slow because adrenal cancer is so rare. 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.


Although adrenal cancer can be hard to study, experts are looking for new drugs that may help, as well as looking at the value of accepted treatments.

One important ongoing study (called ADIUVO) is testing the value of mitotane in treating 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.

Targeted therapy

Researchers are working to understand the genetic changes that cause adrenal cancers so that newer treatments can be found to target these changes.

Targeted therapy is a newer type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack the programming that makes cancer cells different from normal, healthy cells. Each type of targeted therapy works differently, but all alter the way a cancer cell grows, divides, repairs itself, or interacts with other cells.

A few targeted drugs have been studied for treating adrenal cancer, but so far they have not been found to be helpful. However, scientists continue to look for drugs to block the effects of certain hormones that might help adrenal cancer cells grow. One of these hormones is called insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2).

Some studies are being done to better understand IGF2 and other hormones to know if targeted drugs may be helpful in adrenal cancer.


Scientists are learning how changes in certain genes cause normal adrenal cortex cells to become cancerous. Understanding these genetic changes will help doctors develop better methods to diagnose this disease as well as treatments that are more effective and have fewer side effects than those currently available. Medical centers involved in research might ask their patients for blood samples and about diseases in other family members to learn more about adrenal cancer, 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.

For example, there have been several studies looking at which hereditary syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome, lead to a higher risk for adrenal cancer. (These syndromes are discussed in Risk Factors for Adrenal Cancer.) International groups are working to understand how adrenal cancer develops. Hopefully, these efforts will provide better targets for therapy.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Revised: January 2, 2018

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