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June 12, 1967

Adrenalectomy as Palliative Treatment

JAMA. 1967;200(11):973. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120240101017

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It is certain that removal of both adrenal glands of patients with widely disseminated mammary carcinoma can result in prompt, profound, and longlasting regression of the cancer. Consequently, bilateral adrenalectomy can be useful therapy in cancer. Regression of mammary cancer following removal of glands that produce growth-promoting steroids (ovary, testis, adrenal) depends on (1) hormone dependence of the tumor and (2) hormone production by the host. Adrenalectomy has little or no beneficial effect in patients with hormone-independent cancer.

The earliest indication that advanced cancer of any sort can be induced to regress was the beneficial effect of oophorectomy on mammary cancer in women discovered by Beatson.6,7 But why does cancer of the breast sometimes thrive in women deprived of ovarian function by oophorectomy or the menopause? Many theoretical considerations8 have enabled us to identify the adrenal glands as factors in sustaining the presence of mammary cancer in man.