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Cytadren Print


Generic name: Aminoqlutethimide
Trade name: Cytadren
Other names:
Drug type: Cytadren is a hormone therapy. It fights cancer as an "adrenal steroid inhibitor." (For more detail, see "How this drug works" section below).

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.

Side effects:

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 skin reactions)
  • Mild nausea

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

  • Clumsiness, decreased coordination (ataxia) (see balance and mobility)
  • Dizziness

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 following:

  • 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
    • 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

Self-care tips:

  • 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 otherwise.
  • 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. is a program of the Scott Hamilton CARES initiative

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2010 09:10