Adrenal function following high-dose steroids in ovarian cancer patients

Giuseppe Del Priore, Karen J. Gurski, David P. Warshal, Cynthia Angel, Brent Dubeshter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Steroid doses similar to those used to prevent paclitaxel-associated hypersensitivity reactions and cisplatin-induced nausea have been associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression. We assessed HPA function in patients receiving high-dose steroids as part of their chemotherapy regimen for epithelial ovarian cancer. Patients and Methods: From January to July 1994, a cross-sectional study of HPA function was performed on patients receiving dexamethasone (DEX) as part of their paclitaxel and cisplatin chemotherapy regimen (n = 9). Patients received 20 mg of DEX orally, 6 and 12 hr prior to paclitaxel (135 mg/m2) and 10-20 mg intravenously before cisplatin (50-100 mg/m2). In addition, patients received approximately 12 mg/day of DEX orally for 4 days after their chemotherapy as an antiemetic. HPA integrity was evaluated by the administration of synthetic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The ACTH stimulation test was performed 11-19 days after the completion of the course of DEX. Patients had fasting baseline cortisol levels drawn at approximately 0800 followed by a 25-unit intravenous injection of ACTH. Post-ACTH cortisol levels were repeated at 30 and 60 min. Results: The mean (±SEM) fasting baseline level of cortisol was 12.4 ± 2.3 μg/dl (normal, 7-23 μg/dl). At 30 min following ACTH administration, the mean cortisol level rose 17.1 μg to 29.5 ± 1.8 μg/dl; at 60 min it rose 21.4 μg to 33.8 ± 2.5 μg/dl [P < 0.001] (normal increase 9-39 μg). All patients demonstrated a sufficient increase in their plasma cortisol after ACTH stimulation, indicating normal HPA function on the days tested. However, there was a significant trend toward lower increases in plasma cortisol at 30 and 60 min as the interval from ACTH stimulation testing to the DEX regimen decreased (r = 0.986; P < 0.0001). The chemotherapy cycle number had no impact on cortisol response in the multivariate analysis. Based on multiple linear regression, HPA function may be suppressed for approximately 8 days, but up to 14 days from the start of this DEX regimen. Conclusion: Current steroid regimens prescribed with chemotherapy transiently decrease HPA function, but do not appear to inhibit the HPA axis long term. HPA function may be suppressed for approximately 8 days from the commencement of chemotherapy cycles involving DEX. Patients presenting within the first 8 days of a chemotherapy cycle using steroids with symptoms attributable to HPA suppression may benefit from HPA axis testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-104
Number of pages3
JournalGynecologic oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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    Del Priore, G., Gurski, K. J., Warshal, D. P., Angel, C., & Dubeshter, B. (1995). Adrenal function following high-dose steroids in ovarian cancer patients. Gynecologic oncology, 59(1), 102-104.