Stilboestrol plus adrenal suppression as salvage treatment for patients failing treatment with luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogues and orchidectomy


Prof. R.T.D. Oliver, Department of Medical Oncology, Theatre D, 1st Floor, King George V Building, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE, UK.


Objective To investigate the efficacy of low-dose stilboestrol (SB) with hydrocortisone in patients with advanced prostate cancer refractory to androgen suppression.

Patients and methods Thirty-four consecutive patients (median age 70 years, range 51–83) with metastatic disease who progressed on hormone therapy, as shown by recurrent/worsening symptoms and an increase in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, were recruited and discontinued hormonal treatment before starting SB. Patients received SB (1 mg/day) combined with hydrocortisone (40 mg/day). In an attempt to reduce the incidence of thrombo-embolic events, aspirin (75 mg/day) was also added.

Results Stilboestrol was the second-line treatment in 19 patients and the third or fourth in 15. The median (range) duration of treatment with SB was 5 (0.5–21) months and the median follow-up 7.5 months, with 18 patients still alive and 14 still on treatment. Of 29 symptomatic patients, 24 had symptomatic improvement and five had no clear benefit; the median duration of benefit was 6 (2–21) months. The PSA level decreased by 0–50% in six patients, by 50–90% in 13 and by > 90% in eight, while there was symptomatic improvement in these three categories in five, 11 and seven patients, respectively. The median times to PSA nadir and progression were 4 and 6 months, respectively. Some thrombo-embolic events and fluid retention occurred but overall the treatment was well tolerated.

Conclusion Low-dose SB with hydrocortisone is effective in refractory prostate cancer, although there is some toxicity. Randomized studies against hydrocortisone or SB alone are needed to establish the cost/benefit ratio of this combination.