Hormones and Cancer

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 95–107 | Cite as

The Two Faces of Adjuvant Glucocorticoid Treatment in Ovarian Cancer

  • Vladimir Djedovic
  • Yoo-Young Lee
  • Alexandra Kollara
  • Taymaa May
  • Theodore J. Brown


Adjuvant glucocorticoid treatment is routinely used in the treatment of ovarian cancer to mitigate the undesirable side effects of chemotherapy, thereby enhancing tolerability to higher cytotoxic drug doses and frequency of treatment cycles. However, in vitro and preclinical in vivo and ex vivo studies indicate that glucocorticoids may spare tumor cells from undergoing cell death through enhanced cell adhesion, promotion of anti-inflammatory signaling, and/or inhibition of apoptotic pathways. The implications of laboratory studies showing potential negative impact on the efficacy of chemotherapy have been long overlooked since clinical investigations have found no apparent survival detriment attributable to adjuvant glucocorticoid use. Importantly, these clinical studies were not randomized and most did not consider glucocorticoid receptor status, a vital determinant of tumor response to glucocorticoid administration. Additionally, the clinically beneficial elements of increased chemotherapy treatment adherence and dosing afforded by adjuvant glucocorticoids may offset and therefore mask their anti-chemotherapy activities. This review summarizes the current evidence on the impact of glucocorticoids in ovarian cancer and discusses the need for further research and development of alternative strategies to ameliorate untoward side effects of chemotherapy.



Supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research grants MOP142364 and MOP106679.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Sinai Health SystemsUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Division of Gynecological Oncology, Princess Margaret Cancer CentreUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mt. Sinai HospitalUniversity of TorontoTorontoUSA

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