We evaluated the comparative effects of aminoglutethimide (AG) on androgen and estrogen levels estrone ([E1], estradiol [E2], plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate [DHEA-S], testosterone [T], dihydrotestosterone [DHT], Δ4-androstenedione [Δ4-A]), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin in postmenopausal patients with breast cancer randomly allocated to either AG treatment or bilateral surgical adrenalectomy as a control group. In response to either treatment, the plasma levels of E1 fell 62-75% (P<0.001) and urine E1 85.7-88.7% (P<0.001) in all study days over a 12-wk period. Similarly, the concentrations of E2 in plasma and urine fell 40-72% without statistically significant differences between the two treatment modalities. The relatively weak androgen, DHEA-S, was reduced by 92% (877.3 ± 184.6 to 71.8 ± 14.5 ng/ml) at 12 wk in women treated with AG, but suppressed nearly 99% (1,151 ± 262 to 5.8 ± 3.3 ng/ml) in adrenalectomized women. At all time points after treatment, the DHEA-S levels were significantly higher in patients receiving AG. Plasma concentrations of the potent androgens, T and DHT, were also relatively preserved during AG treatment. T levels were never significantly reduced by AG, and DHT concentrations were decreased only at the 4th wk to a maximum of 20%. Δ4A levels fell 56% in response to this drug only on the 12th wk of therapy (basal, 0.79 ± 0.09 ng/ml; 12 wk, 0.35 ± 0.07 ng/ml). In marked contrast, all androgens fell significantly at each time period in response to surgical adrenalectomy, with an 81% maximum suppression of T, 73% of DHT, and 97% of Δ4-A. In response to estrogen suppression, plasma levels of FSH, LH, and prolactin did not change significantly throughout the treatment period in either therapy group. To examine possible contributions of the postmenopausal ovary to hormone levels during therapy, data from surgically castrate and spontaneously menopausal women were evaluated separately. No significant differences between the two groups were observed for E1, E2, T, DHT, DHEA-S, Δ4-A, LH, FSH, and prolactin. We conclude that equivalent and highly significant estrogen suppression occurs with either AG or surgical adrenalectomy although androgen secretion is preserved during AG treatment but not after surgical adrenalectomy. The combined effects of estrogen deprivation associated with androgen preservation might be significant in the therapeutic action of AG in hormone-responsive neoplasms.
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