Management of prostate cancer progression after failure of initial hormonal therapy is controversial. Recently, the activity of the simple discontinuation of antiandrogen therapy has been established by several groups, as well as the enhanced activity when combined with adrenal suppression (i.e., aminoglutethimide and hydrocortisone). Furthermore, suramin has generated considerable interest following reports of response rates ranging from 17 to 70%. More recently, suramin response rates of 18 and 22% have been reported when the potential confounding variables of flutamide withdrawal and hydrocortisone were prospectively controlled. On the basis of the activity of combining aminoglutethimide with flutamide withdrawal, we designed a protocol in which suramin was combined with aminoglutethimide in two cohorts of patients (those with simultaneous antiandrogen withdrawal compared to those who had previously discontinued antiandrogen therapy). Eighty-one evaluable patients were enrolled in this study between June 1992 and November 1994. Patients were a priori divided into two cohorts, those receiving prior antiandrogen withdrawal (n = 56) and those receiving simultaneous antiandrogen withdrawal (n = 25) at the time the patients were enrolled into the trial. For the group that discontinued antiandrogen prior to enrolling in therapy, the partial response rate (> 50% decline in PSA for > 4 weeks) was 14.2%, whereas the partial response was 44% for those patients who discontinued their antiandrogen at the time of starting suramin and aminoglutethimide. The median time to progression was 3.9 months in patients failing prior antiandrogen withdrawal and 5.5 months in those patients having concomitant antiandrogen withdrawal (P = 0.36 for the overall difference). The progression-free survival estimate at 1 year for patients having prior antiandrogen withdrawal was 19.8% [95% confidence interval (CI), 11-32.9%]. For those patients who experienced antiandrogen withdrawal simultaneous with the treatment, the progression-free survival estimates at 1 and 2 years were 27.1 (95% CI, 13.2-47.6%) and 4.5% (95% CI, 0.8-21.6%). The median survival time for those patients having prior antiandrogen withdrawal was 14.2 months, whereas the median survival was 21.9 months for those having concomitant antiandrogen withdrawal (P = 0.029 for the overall difference). In conclusion, the partial response rate of 44% for those who had concomitant flutamide withdrawal with adrenal suppression was consistent with that of other reports using a similar maneuver. Although this study was not randomized and thus we should not over-interpret the results, flutamide withdrawal plus adrenal suppression appears to have greater activity than flutamide withdrawal alone. Furthermore, these data suggest that suramin adds little to the response rate observed for other adrenal suppressive agents in the presence of antiandrogen withdrawal. This interpretation is in agreement with those studies controlling for adrenal suppression and flutamide withdrawal prior to suramin administration, which noted modest activity of short duration. Given that antiandrogen withdrawal is now accepted as an active maneuver for a subset of patients progressing after maximum androgen blockade, we propose that future trials attempting to maximize response rates incorporate this maneuver whenever possible into prospectively designed regimens.