Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond

Abiraterone Acetate

(a bir A ter one AS e tate)

Trade name: Zytiga®

Abiraterone acetate is the generic name for the trade name drug Zytiga®. In some cases, health care professionals may use the trade name Zytiga® when referring to the generic drug name abiraterone acetate.

Drug type:

Abiraterone acetate is a type of hormone therapy. This medication is classified as an “adrenal inhibitor". (For more detail, see “How abiraterone acetate Works” below)

What Abiraterone Acetate is Used For:

  • Abiraterone acetate is indicated for use in combination with prednisone for the treatment of men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who have already received prior chemotherapy containing docetaxel.

Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.

How Abiraterone Acetate is Given:

  • Abiraterone acetate is a pill, taken by mouth. It is taken once a day.
  • It must be taken on an empty stomach [2 hours after a meal, or one hour before]
  • It should be taken at approximately the same time each day.
  • Prednisone [10mg daily] should be taken along with abiraterone acetate.
  • The amount of abiraterone acetate you receive depends on many factors. Your doctor will determine your dose and schedule

Abiraterone Acetate Side Effects:

Important things to remember about the side effects of abiraterone acetate:

  • Most people will not experience all of the abiraterone acetate side effects listed.
  • Abiraterone acetate side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset, duration, and severity.
  • Abiraterone acetate side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after therapy is complete.
  • Abiraterone acetate side effects may be quite manageable. There are many options to minimize or prevent the side effects of abiraterone acetate.

The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking abiraterone acetate:

These side effects are less common (occurring in 10-29%) side effects for patients receiving abiraterone acetate:

Abiraterone acetate works by inhibiting specific “enzymes” in your adrenal glands that are responsible for making androgens. For this reason, there is an increased risk of over production of mineralcorticosteroids in your body while on abiraterone acetate. As a result, abiraterone acetate may cause hypertension [high blood pressure], hypokalemia [low levels of potassium in the blood], and fluid retention. Because of this risk, abiraterone acetate should be used cautiously in patients with a strong cardiovascular history, and patients should be monitored closely for these symptoms. Dosing along with prednisone will decrease the risk of mineralocorticoid excess.

Not all side effects are listed above. Side effects that are very rare -- occurring in less than about 10 percent of patients -- are not listed here. But you should always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

When to contact your physician or health care provider:

Contact your health care provider immediately, day or night, if you should experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C or higher, chills)
  • Chest Pain or Irregular heart beats
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to urinate for 8 or more hours

Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency. Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:

  • Dizziness / Light headedness
  • Significant headache
  • Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period)
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black or tarry stools, or blood in your stools
  • Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities)
  • Yellow coloring of your skin or eyes
  • Unusual elevation in blood pressure

Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.

Abiraterone Acetate Precautions:

  • Before starting abiraterone acetate treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking (including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.). Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin unless your doctor specifically permits this.
  • Abiraterone acetate is currently not indicated for use in women. However, if abiraterone acetate is given to a woman, getting pregnant should be avoided and the woman should not breast feed.
  • Abiraterone acetate is currently not indicated for use in women. Abiraterone acetate should not be given to women who are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. Pregnancy category X (abiraterone acetate may cause fetal harm when given to a pregnant woman. If a woman becomes pregnant while taking abiraterone acetate, the medication must be stopped immediately and the woman given appropriate counseling).
  • It is not known if abiraterone acetate is excreted in semen, therefore, men should use a condom and another method of birth control during treatment and for 1 week following the last dose of abiraterone acetate.

Abiraterone Acetate Self-Care Tips:

  • Abiraterone acetate and prednisone are to be used together and neither medication should be interrupted or stopped unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Take the medication exactly as directed.
  • Take at the same time each day
  • Take on an empty stomach
  • You will need to continue receiving your LHRH/GnRH agonists injections (ie Zoladex®, Lupron®, Trelstar®, etc) throughout treatment with abiraterone acetate.
  • If you are experiencing hot flashes, wear light clothing, stay in a cool environment to try and reduce symptoms. Consult your healthcare provider if these worsen or become intolerable.
  • In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely. You should discuss this with your doctor.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Maintain good nutrition.
  • 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 while taking abiraterone acetate:

You will be checked regularly by your doctor while you are taking abiraterone acetate, to monitor side effects and check your response to therapy. Periodic blood work will be obtained to monitor your complete blood count (CBC) as well as the function of other organs (such as your kidneys and liver), as deemed necessary by your doctor.

How Abiraterone Acetate Works:

Hormones are chemical substances that are produced by glands in the body, which enter the bloodstream and cause effects in other tissues. 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 therapy can 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. Different types of hormone therapies are categorized by their function and/or the type of hormone that is affected.

The growth of prostate cancer is stimulated by male hormones (androgens / testosterone). Decreasing the production of these hormones is critical in helping men fight prostate cancer. Androgens are primarily made by the testicles and adrenal glands. However, in men with advanced prostate cancer, the metastatic tumors themselves have the capability to produce testosterone. Generally, prostate cancer responds to treatment that decreases androgen levels. Many androgen deprivation therapies, decrease androgen production by the testicles but do not affect androgen production elsewhere in the body, such as the adrenal glands or in the tumor.

Abiraterone acetate works in a different manner than other androgen deprivation therapies. Abiraterone acetate interferes with an enzyme that is expressed in testicular, adrenal, and prostatic tumor tissues and is required as part of the body’s androgen producing process. Because of this interference the amount of androgens produced are decreased. Abiraterone acetate, blocks androgen production at three sources; the testes, the adrenal glands, as well as from the tumor itself.

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. 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