Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
Generic name: Aminoglutethimide
Chemocare.com uses generic names in all descriptions of drugs. Cytadren is the trade
name for aminoglutethimide. In some cases, health care professionals may use the
trade name cytadren when referring to the generic drug name aminoglutethimide.
Drug type: Cytadren is a hormone therapy. It fights cancer
as an "adrenal steroid inhibitor." (For more detail, see "How this drug works" section
What This Drug Is Used For:
- To treat breast cancer in postmenopausal women
- Metastatic prostate cancer
Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians sometimes
elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it might be helpful.
How This Drug Is Given:
- This drug is taken orally, in pill form. Drinking a glass of water and eating
food is recommended when taking this medicine.
- About half of patients who take this medications will need to take a steroid medication
to replace necessary steroids (made by the body) that are reduced by aminoglutethimide.
- The amount of aminoglutethimide you receive depends on many factors. Your
doctor will determine your exact dosage and schedule.
Important things to remember about the side effects of aminoglutethimide:
- Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
- Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset, duration and severity.
- Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
- There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
- There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the
effectiveness of the medication.
The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for
patients taking aminoglutethimide:
- Drowsiness, fatigue
- Skin rash (usually seen during the first week of treatment then goes away) (see
- Mild nausea
These are less common side effects (occurring in 10-29%) for patients receiving
- Clumsiness, decreased coordination (ataxia) (see balance and mobility)
Not all side effects are listed above, some that are rare (occurring in less than
10% of patients) are not listed here. However, you should always inform your
health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
When to contact your doctor or health care provider:
The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency.
Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the
- Nausea and/or vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
- Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency (low production of needed steroids produced by
the adrenal glands) are:
- Fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, and dizziness.
Be sure your health care provider is aware if you are experiencing these symptoms.
If adrenal insufficiency occurs replacement steroids may be needed.
Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
- Before starting aminoglutethimide treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about
any other medications you are taking (including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins,
or herbal remedies).
- Approximately one half of the patients who take aminoglutethimide need to be on
a replacement steroid medication due to adrenal insufficiency (low production of
needed steroids produced by the adrenal glands).
- Anyone who has had an allergic reaction to any component of this drug should not
receive it again.
- Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior
to starting this treatment. Pregnancy category D (aminoglutethimide may be
hazardous to the fetus. Women who are pregnant or become pregnant must be
advised of the potential hazard to the fetus.)
- For both men and women: Do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking aminoglutethimide.
Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended. Discuss with
your doctor when you may safely become pregnant or conceive a child after therapy.
- Do not breast feed while taking this medication
- Take with food to reduce nausea.
- You may experience drowsiness or dizziness; avoid driving or engaging in tasks that
require alertness until your response to the drug is known.
- Drink at least two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed
- If you experience symptoms or side effects, be sure to discuss them with your health
care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that
are effective in managing such problems.
Monitoring and Testing:
During the course of treatment, your response to this medicine will be carefully
monitored. Your blood may be tested at intervals determined by your doctor
to check your thyroid function, and adrenal gland function.
How this drug works:
Aminoglutethimide is a type of hormone therapy. Hormones are chemical substances
that are produced by glands in the body, which enter the bloodstream and cause effects
in other tissues. (For example, the hormone testosterone made in the testicles
is responsible for male characteristics such as deepening voice and increased body
hair.) The use of hormone therapy to treat cancer is based on the observation that
receptors for specific hormones that are needed for cell growth are on the surface
of some tumor cells. Hormone therapies work by stopping the production of
a certain hormone, blocking hormone receptors, or substituting chemically similar
agents for the active hormone, which cannot be used by the tumor cell. The
different types of hormone therapies are categorized by their function and/or the
type of hormone that is effected.
Aminoglutethimide is an adrenal steroid inhibitor, which means it interferes with
the hormones produced by the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are located
on top of the kidneys. The outer portion of the adrenal gland (the adrenal
cortex) produces hormones called corticosteroids. When these corticosteroids
are blocked from being made, they are not able to signal the body to produce other
hormones such as estrogen, androgens, glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids.
The resulting decrease of estrogens and androgens interferes with the stimulation
of cancer growth in tumors that are influenced by these hormones.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional
about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained
in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute
for medical advice.
Chemocare.com is designed to provide the latest information about chemotherapy to patients and their families, caregivers and friends. For information about the 4th Angel Mentoring Program visit www.4thangel.org