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Giuseppe Reimondo, Soraya Puglisi, Barbara Zaggia, Vittoria Basile, Laura Saba, Paola Perotti, Silvia De Francia, Marco Volante, Maria Chiara Zatelli, Salvatore Cannavò and Massimo Terzolo


Mitotane, a drug used to treat adrenocortical cancer (ACC), inhibits multiple enzymatic steps of adrenocortical steroid biosynthesis, potentially causing adrenal insufficiency. Recent studies in vitro have also documented a direct inhibitory effect of mitotane at the pituitary level. The present study was aimed to assess the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis in patients with ACC receiving mitotane.

Design and methods

We prospectively enrolled 16 patients on adjuvant treatment with mitotane after radical surgical resection of ACC, who underwent standard hormone evaluation and h-CRH stimulation. A group of 10 patients with primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) served as controls for the CRH test.


We demonstrated a close correlation between cortisol-binding globulin (CBG) and plasma mitotane levels, and a non-significant trend between mitotane dose and either serum or salivary cortisol in ACC patients. We did not find any correlation between the dose of cortisone acetate and either ACTH or cortisol levels. ACTH levels were significantly higher in patients with PAI than that in patients with ACC, both in baseline conditions (88.99 (11.04–275.00) vs 24.53 (6.16–121.88) pmol/L, P = 0.031) and following CRH (158.40 (34.32–275.00) vs 67.43 (8.8–179.52) pmol/L P = 0.016).


The observation of lower ACTH levels in patients with ACC than that in patients with PAI, both in basal conditions and after CRH stimulation, suggests that mitotane may play an inhibitory effect on ACTH secretion at the pituitary levels. In conclusion, the present study shows that mitotane affects the HPA axis at multiple levels and no single biomarker may be used for the assessment of adrenal insufficiency.

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Deborah Cosentini, Giuseppe Badalamenti, Salvatore Grisanti, Vittoria Basile, Ida Rapa, Sara Cerri, Andrea Spallanzani, Paola Perotti, Emanuela Musso, Marta Laganà, Vittorio D Ferrari, Gabriele Luppi, Alberto Dalla Volta, Lorena Incorvaia, Sandra Sigala, Antonio Russo, Marco Volante, Massimo Terzolo and Alfredo Berruti


Temozolomide has shown a significant anti-proliferative activity on adrenocortical cancer (ACC) cells in vitro.


On the basis of these results the drug was prescribed as second/third line in advanced metastatic ACC patients in four referral centers in Italy.


We retrospectively collected anagraphic, clinical and pathological data of patients with advanced ACC with disease progression to standard chemotherapy plus mitotane who were treated with temozolomide at the dose of 200 mg/m2/die given for 5 consecutive days every 28 days. The primary endpoint was the disease control rate, defined as objective response or disease stabilization after 3 months. Secondary endpoints were overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS) and drug safety.


Twenty-eight patients have been included in the study. Ten patients (35.8%, 95% CI: 17.8–53.8) obtained a disease control from temozolomide treatment. In particular, 1 patient had a complete response, 5 patients a partial response and 4 patients stable disease. Median PFS was 3.5 months and median OS was 7.2 months. Disease response was more frequently observed in patients with methylation of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) gene. Temozolomide therapy was well tolerated and most toxicities were limited to grade G1–2 according to WHO criteria.


Temozolomide was found active in the management of advanced ACC patients. The disease control rate obtained, however, was short-lived and the prognosis of treated patients was poor.