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Hormonal Therapy

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Hormonal therapy is one of the major modalities of medical treatment for cancer, others being cytotoxic chemotherapy and targeted therapy (biotherapeutics). It involves the manipulation of the endocrine system through exogenous administration of specific hormones, particularly steroid hormones or drugs which inhibit the production or activity of such hormones (hormone antagonists).

Because steroid hormones are powerful drivers of gene expression in certain cancer cells, changing the levels or activity of certain hormones can cause certain cancers to cease growing, or even undergo cell death. Surgical removal of endocrine organs, such as orchiectomy and oophorectomy can also be employed as a form of hormonal therapy.

Hormonal therapy is used for several types of cancers derived from hormonally responsive tissues, including the breast, prostate, endometrium and adrenal cortex. Hormonal therapy may also be used in the treatment of paraneoplastic syndromes or to ameliorate certain cancer- and chemotherapy-associated symptoms, such as anorexia. Perhaps the most familiar example of hormonal therapy in oncology is the use of the selective estrogen-response modulator tamoxifen for the treatment of breast cancer, although another class of hormonal agents, aromatase inhibitors, now have an expanding role in that disease.