Drug Treatments for Adrenal Tumors

Some patients with adrenal tumors or adrenal cancer may need systemic therapy, which uses anti-cancer drugs that circulate throughout the body. You may have systemic therapy alone or in combination with other treatments and you may have it before surgery (called neoadjuvant treatment) or after surgery (called adjuvant treatment).

Your cancer care team will select the specific drugs or combination of drugs that are best for your cancer. Systemic therapy for adrenal cancer may include one of more of these types of drugs:

  • Chemotherapy. These drugs find and kill cancer fast-growing cancer cells by interrupting the process the cells use to multiply.
  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy drugs seek cancer cells by targeting specific characteristics or features of the cancer cells. The drugs then stop the action of certain molecules that allow the cancer cells to grow or survive.
  • Theranostics. This approach uses radiopharmaceuticals, drugs that carry radiation. For pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma types of adrenal tumors, the radiopharmaceutical — iobenguane I 131 (Azedra) — finds the cancer cells by targeting the norepinephrine transporter found the cells’ surface and delivers radiation in the form of iodine 131 directly to the cancer cells. Iodine 131 has been used for the treatment of thyroid and other cancers for decades.
  • Immunotherapy. Cancer cells are able to grow in the body because they have learned how to hide themselves from the body’s immune system. Immunotherapy uses drugs to stimulate the body’s immune system and/or reveal the cancer cells, so that your immune system can fight the cancer.

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