Adrenal Cancer

Testosterone Plays a Role in the Fight against Adrenal Cancers November, 2022

Scientists reveal why cancers of the adrenal glands are more common among women

Researchers have deciphered a signaling cascade through which inborn errors in metabolism provoke deadly neuroendocrine tumors in the adrenal glands.

Adrenal Cancer Overview

Adrenal Cancer is cancer that begins in the small glands that sit above each of the kidneys, which are located inside the upper part of the abdomen.

These glands are important to the body’s endocrine, or hormonal, system. Each adrenal gland has two main parts that function separately:

Adrenal cortex: The cortex is the outer part of the adrenal gland, and is where most tumors develop.The function of the cortex is to make hormones. The adrenal cortex makes three main hormones: cortisol, which helps the body handle stress, aldosterone, which helps regulate the level of salt in the blood, and precursors for adrenal androgens like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). These hormones are essential for healthy metabolism and body characteristics, such as hair growth and body shape.

Adrenal medulla: The medulla is the inner part of the adrenal gland. The adrenal medulla makes three hormones called catecholamines: epinephrine, also called adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The hormones made in the medulla control the body’s responses to stress.

Adrenal cortical cancer

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma: adrenocortical carcinoma is the most common type of cancerous adrenal gland tumor. It is also known as adrenal cortical carcinoma. Adrenocortical cancer is rare, approximately four to 12 out of one million people develop this type of tumor. These tumors often spread to lymph nodes and other organs or tissues. The tumors from the adrenal cortex produce excess secretion of steroid hormones and aldosterone.

Adrenal medulla tumors and cancers

  • Pheochromocytoma: These tumors, that are rare and usually benign, begin in the chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla. Tumors from the adrenal medulla produce excessive amounts of catecholamines.
Treatment for Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal Carcinomas are rare, and current treatment regimes vary widely. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy are the three types of standard treatment.

Surgery: surgical resection remains the most common treatment for a curative therapeutic option. Adrenalectomy is often used to remove the adrenal gland, and to remove nearby lymph nodes if the cancer has spread. For small adrenal tumors, a less invasive laparoscopic approach is often possible. Laparoscopic surgery leaves smaller incisions and requires less recovery time. Tumor ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to kill tumor cells, is sometimes used to kill cancer cells and improve quality of life.

Radiation Therapy: radiation (the use of high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells) can be given using external beam radiation therapy or by employing brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy) using small pellets of radioactive material. Radiation is usually used after surgery to prevent reoccurrence.

Chemotherapy: chemotherapy is used to treat adrenal cancer following surgery, or for adrenal cancer that is too widespread to be removed by resection. Mitotane is the drug most commonly used to shrink adrenal tumors. Mitotane blocks hormone production by the adrenal gland, and can be helpful in relieving syptoms. Other chemotherapy drugs are used in combination with Mitotane, such as cisplatin, doxorubicin, etoposide and streptozocin.

Biologic and targeted therapies, treatments that use the patient’s immune system to fight cancer and drugs that identify specific cancer growth pathways without harming healthy cells, are also being tested in clinical trials and these novel therapeutic drugs may offer promise in treating adrenal cancer.

Clinical Trials for Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal Clinical Trial Information from the National Cancer Institutes

American Cancer Society: What’s New in Adrenal Cancer Treatment and Trials Clinical Trial Resource for Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal Stem Cell Clinical Trial Research: University Of Michigan

Recent News for Adrenal Cancer

Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy (PRRT)
November 15, 2017

Team Uses Nanoparticles to Enhance Chemotherapy; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
July 7, 2014

What’s New In Adrenal Cancer Research
American Cancer Society
June, 2014

Targeted Drugs May Help in Rare Adrenal Cancer
MedPage Today
December 9, 2013

U of M spinoff takes rare adrenal cancer drug into clinical trials
MedCity News
December, 2013

Support Groups for Adrenal Cancer

Adrenal Cancer Support

ACC Compassion

Adrenal Cancer Information

Cancer Support Community

Imerman Angels One-On-One Cancer Support

Wellness Community

Daily Strength Online Support Group

Fighting Chance- free counseling service for cancer patients and caregivers