Transdermal estradiol therapy for advanced prostate cancer—forward to the past?

Document Type



Pathology and Laboratory Medicine


Purpose: Current hormonal therapies for prostate cancer are associated with significant morbidities, including symptoms of andropause and osteoporosis. Oral estrogens prevented many of these problems but were abandoned due to cardiovascular toxicity attributed to hepatic effect. In contrast, parenteral estrogens prevent first pass hepatic metabolism and substantially reduce cardiovascular risk, and long-term transdermal estradiol therapy is believed to be cardioprotective. We report preliminary results of a pilot study using transdermal estradiol therapy to treat men with advanced prostate cancer.
Materials and Methods: A total of 20 patients with advanced prostate cancer were enrolled in a before and after study that examined the impact of estradiol patches on hormones, disease, thrombophilia, vascular flow, osteoporosis and quality of life.
Results: Median followup is 15 months. Estradiol levels greater than 1,000 pmol./l. were achieved using 2 patches and higher levels were obtained by increasing the number of patches. All patients achieved castrate levels of testosterone within 3 weeks and had biochemical evidence of disease regression. One patient died of disease at 14 months and 1 cardiovascular complication occurred. Thrombophilic activation was avoided and vascular flow improved. Bone mineral density was significantly increased. Mild or moderate gynecomastia occurred in 80% of patients but no patient had hot flushes. All other functional and symptomatic quality of life domains improved.
Conclusions: Transdermal estradiol therapy produced an effective tumor response. Cardiovascular toxicity was substantially reduced compared with that expected of oral estrogen, and other morbidity (gynecomastia) was negligible. Transdermal estradiol therapy prevented andropause symptoms, improved quality of life scores and increased bone density. Transdermal estradiol costs a tenth of current therapy cost, with the potential for considerable economic savings over conventional hormone therapies.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The Journal of Urology