Some types of cancer may be sensitive to the effects of hormones, and may respond to a type of treatment known as hormone therapy (also called hormonal or endocrine therapy). Hormone therapy may work by:
- decreasing the amount of hormone produced by the body or by cancer cells; examples include aromatase inhibitors used for breast cancer, androgen deprivation therapy, such as leuprolide (Lupron) or goserelen (Zoladex), used for prostate cancer, and other prostate cancer medications that lower hormone levels, such as abiraterone.
- blocking cancer cells from using hormones made by the body; examples include medications called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) such as tamoxifen or raloxifene and androgen receptor blockers such as enzalutamide, apalutamide or darolutamide.
Oncologists can choose from many different types of hormone therapy. Hormone therapy may be used alone or combined with other types of treatments. Each therapy has different indications and side effects. Whether hormone therapy is used, and the type of hormone therapy used, may depend on the following:
- Your cancer type: Some types of cancer, such as breast and prostate cancer, are often treated with hormone therapy.
- Your cancer subtype: Tests may be available to learn if your cancer is sensitive to hormones. This is particularly true for breast cancer, where all tumors are tested to see if they are sensitive to the hormones estrogen or progesterone.
- How the cancer responded to previous treatments: If your cancer grows or comes back after hormone therapy, your oncologist may choose a different type of treatment. Prostate cancer that returns or grows after hormone therapy is called "castration-resistant prostate cancer" or CRPC.
Hormone therapy is most often given as systemic therapy by injection or as a pill.