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Int J Urol. 2001 Feb;8(2):33-6.

Necessity of re-evaluation of estramustine phosphate sodium (EMP) as a treatment option for first-line monotherapy in advanced prostate cancer.

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Department of Urology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


Estramustine phosphate sodium (EMP) was first introduced in the early 1970s for the treatment of prostate cancer, when EMP was supposed to have the dual effect of estrogenic activity and cytotoxicity. For the following decades, it was used mainly in hormone-refractory cases, with a conventional dosage of 4-9 capsules/day, which showed a 30-35% objective response rate. However, a very limited number of cases have been reported that used EMP as a first-line monotherapy in the conventional dosage. One study showed a response rate of 82%, which is at least as effective as conventional estrogen (diethylstilbestrol; DES) monotherapy. Nevertheless, EMP was almost abandoned for the treatment of prostate cancer because of severe adverse side-effects, especially in the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal tract. Recently, two facts have become evident. First, EMP interferes with cellular microtubule dynamics but does not show alkylating effects. Second, EMP is able to produce a complex with calcium when dairy products are taken concomitantly with EMP, resulting in a decrease in the absorption rate of EMP from the gut. Many clinical trials have been undertaken without warning against concomitant dairy product intake since the introduction of EMP. This fact will jeopardize almost all the clinical trials performed before 1990. It is considered that response rates have been underestimated and better results could have been obtained because side-effects decrease dose-dependently. Low-dose EMP monotherapy (2 capsules/day) has been performed infrequently in previously untreated advanced prostate cancer. The only large trial by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer in 1984 was biased in selecting patients. Nevertheless, the response rate of EMP is comparable to that of DES. In this study, the adverse side-effects of EMP were less than that of DES. Recently, a study was conducted at the University of Tokyo of 11 patients with advanced prostate cancer on low-dose EMP as first-line monotherapy. The study found that the mean serum prostate-specific antigen level decreased to within the normal range by day 50; mean serum testosterone, leutinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone reduced to undetectable levels by day 20; and mean serum estradiol increased to a very high level within 1 week. These data implicate that low-dose EMP can suppress quickly and adequately the pituitary-gonadal axis, although the antitumor effect has not as yet been elucidated. For these reasons, it is necessary to re-evaluate low-dose EMP monotherapy in previously untreated advanced prostate cancer.

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