The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of long-term (12 months) administration of raloxifene hydrochloride (60 mg/day) on the steroid production of the adrenal cortex and on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in postmenopausal women. We performed a basal evaluation, a corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) (100 microg i.v. bolus) test and a dexamethasone (DXM) (0.25 mg) suppression-adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) (10 microg i.v. bolus) stimulation test in 11 postmenopausal women, before and after 3, 6 and 12 months of raloxifene treatment. Raloxifene administration significantly modified circulating levels of adrenal steroids, decreasing cortisol (-24%), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) (-36%), and its sulfate (DHEAS) (-41%), and androstenedione (-29%), and increasing circulating allopregnanolone (+39%) levels. Progesterone and 17OH-progesterone levels remained unmodified, while estradiol and estrone levels showed a significant decrease (-51% for estradiol and -61% for estrone). We also observed an increase in circulating ACTH (+58%) and beta-endorphin (+120%). No modifications in the hormonal responses to CRF were observed during the treatment. DXM significantly suppressed circulating steroids at any time with a lower suppression of cortisol from the third month and a higher suppression of DHEA at 12 months. ACTH administration was associated with a significantly blunted cortisol response from the sixth month and a significantly increased response of allopregnanolone from the third month. The present data exclude a raloxifene effect on pituitary sensitivity to CRF and demonstrate a reduced adrenal sensitivity to ACTH, sustained by the opposite changes in basal cortisol and Delta5 androgens, which were reduced, and in ACTH and beta-endorphin, which were increased, as well by the reduced response of cortisol to the direct ACTH stimulus. The reduction of circulating cortisol levels and cortisol response to the ACTH challenge suggests that raloxifene protects against the neurotoxic effects of endogenous glucocorticoids. Furthermore, the progressive increase in basal allopregnanolone and its increased response to ACTH indicate that chronic raloxifene administration exerts direct effects on the pattern of adrenal enzymes, leading to specific changes in the circulating levels of this anxiolytic progesterone metabolite. The important reduction in the circulating levels of estradiol and estrone under long-term raloxifene administration may represent a further mechanism by which this molecule may exert a protective effect against breast and endometrial malignancies.
Adrenal function under long-term raloxifene administration / Genazzani, A. R; Lombardi, I; Borgioli, G; di Bono, I; Casarosa, E; Gambacciani, M; Palumbo, M; Genazzani, Alessandro; Luisi, M.. - In: GYNECOLOGICAL ENDOCRINOLOGY. - ISSN 0951-3590. - STAMPA. - 17:(2003), pp. 159-168.