Glucocorticoid receptors are present in most normal and malignant mammalian cells. To examine the hypothesis that the growth of methylcholanthrene-induced malignant sarcoma is glucocorticoid dependent, we evaluated the behavior of malignant fibrosarcoma (MCA) in adrenalectomized rats treated with either normal saline or deoxycorticosterone acetate and in intact rats treated with placebo or with the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU 486. Survival, tumor weight, and loss of body weight (an index of cachexia) were measured. In MCA-bearing rats, neither survival nor loss of body weight was affected by bilateral adrenalectomy or by treatment with RU 486. Tumor weight and time-integrated tumor volume, however, were significantly less in bilaterally adrenalectomized rats without deoxycorticosterone acetate replacement than in animals treated with deoxycorticosterone acetate. Similarly, tumor weight and time-integrated tumor volume were less in intact animals treated with RU 486 than in intact animals treated with placebo. The glucocorticoid receptors in the tumor cells had similar binding capacity (Ro) and equilibrium dissociation constant (Kd) as in control rat fibroblasts. These results suggest that the growth of MCA sarcoma cells is partially dependent upon glucocorticoids. This effect of glucocorticoids, however, was not of sufficient magnitude to improve survival and prevent cachexia. We conclude that glucocorticoids appear to influence MCA sarcoma growth in the rat, and that glucocorticoid receptor blockade, perhaps in combination with other antitumor agents, merits future study in the treatment of malignant tumors.

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