Novel Hormonal Agents
Hormonal agents are drugs that can change the action of female and male hormones. When used as a cancer therapy, they can slow the growth of cancers that typically grow in response to natural hormones found in our bodies.
Hormonal agents work by:
- Preventing cancer cells from using the hormones they need to grow
- Or by preventing the body from making the hormones in the first place
At UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, we offer novel, or new, hormonal agents, for treating:
Hormone therapy for cancer: Why choose the Cancer Center?
We are a premier cancer research and treatment facility and the only cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Central and South Texas.
Our experienced oncologists have a deep understanding of the many hormonal drugs available. Knowing how these agents work is essential to choosing:
- The most effective therapy for your specific type of cancer
- In what order and how often you should be given these drugs
- A treatment plan that will result in as few side effects as possible
Hormone therapy for breast cancer
Hormone therapy for breast cancer is usually given after a surgery to help reduce the risk of cancer coming back. This is known as an adjuvant therapy. However, it can also be used to shrink a tumor before surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.
If your doctors determine that your breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone, you may be a good candidate for hormone therapy. Hormonal therapy medicines treat these breast cancers by:
- Lowering the amount of the hormone estrogen in your body
- Blocking the action of estrogen on breast cancer cells
Current hormonal agents for breast cancer include the anti-estrogens:
- Fulvestrant (Faslodex®)
- Toremifene (Fareston®)
It is important to know that hormonal therapy is not the same thing as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which some women take during or following menopause. HRT is not a breast cancer treatment, and HRT is not considered safe for women with a breast cancer diagnosis.
What are the side effects of hormone therapy for women?
Side effects you may experience will vary greatly depending on the type of hormone therapy you are having. These side effects may include:
- Digestion problems
- Menopausal symptoms
- Hair thinning
- Weight gain
- Memory problems
- Mood swings and depression
- Blood clots
Hormone therapy for prostate cancer
Hormone therapy for prostate cancer can limit or block the production of male sex hormones (androgens) that serve as the main fuel for prostate cancer growth. Testosterone is the androgen most responsible for prostate cancer, so most hormone therapies aim to disrupt or block your testosterone production. This is also called androgen suppression therapy or androgen deprivation therapy.
Your doctors will work together to design an effective treatment plan for you, limiting side effects as much as possible. Your treatment may include hormone therapy in conjunction with radiation therapy and/or surgery.
Current hormonal agents for the treatment of prostate cancer include:
- Anti-androgens: Bicalutamide (Casodex®), Flutamide (Eulexin®) and Nilutamide (Nilandron®)
- Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists or analogs: Leuprolide (Lupron®) and goserelin (Zoladex®)
What are the side effects of hormone therapy for men?
Testosterone is the primary male hormone, and it plays an important role in your body. That is why hormonal therapy can have a lot of side effects for men, including:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hot flashes
- Loss of bone density
- Bone fractures
- Loss of muscle mass and physical strength
- Insulin resistance
- Growth of breast tissue (gynecomastia)
At this time, researchers at the UT Health Cancer Center and elsewhere are working to discover new ways to reduce these side effects. The most commonly explored strategy is known as intermittent therapy. This method provides you with a "drug holiday" in between cycles, giving your body time to return to nearly normal levels of testosterone before the next cycle begins. This method is still in clinical trials.
Make an appointment
To request an appointment or to make a referral to one of our physicians, call 210-450-1000.
For information about cancer treatment or clinical trials at the Cancer Center: 1-800-340-2872.