If you have a certain kind of cancer, tumor, or seizure disorder, your doctor may recommend that you take Afinitor. This drug comes in two forms, Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz, which have different forms and some different uses.
Afinitor can be used to treat the following conditions in certain adults:
- breast cancer
- tumors in the pancreas, lungs, or stomach
- kidney cancer
- noncancerous kidney tumors related to tuberous sclerosis (TS)
Afinitor Disperz can be used in adults and some children with a seizure disorder related to TS.
Both Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz can be used in adults and some children with TS who also have a kind of noncancerous brain tumor.
Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz may be used in specific people with these conditions. For more information about the specific uses of Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz, see the section below, called “What is Afinitor used for?”
The active ingredient in both Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz is everolimus. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work. Afinitor comes as a tablet that you swallow, and Afinitor Disperz comes as a liquid suspension. (With a liquid suspension, you dissolve a tablet in water and then drink the liquid.)
Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz are also available as generic drugs (called everolimus).
Read on to learn more about Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz, how they’re taken, side effects that may occur, and more.
Like most drugs, Afinitor may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Afinitor may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Afinitor. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that Afinitor can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Afinitor’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of Afinitor that have been reported include:
- mouth sores or swelling*
- infection, such as an upper respiratory infection
- fatigue (low energy)
- swelling, especially in your arms or legs
- abdominal (belly) pain
- decreased appetite
- high cholesterol or high triglycerides
- high blood sugar
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Afinitor can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Afinitor, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Afinitor that have been reported include:
- serious infection, such as pneumonia
- kidney failure
- slower wound healing
- pneumonitis that’s not caused by an infection*
- decrease in bone marrow activity, which may lead to low levels of red or white blood cells
- allergic reaction*
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Side effect focus
Learn more about some of the side effects Afinitor may cause.
Some people may have a rash while taking Afinitor. Rash was one of the most common side effects reported by people taking this drug in studies. If you develop a rash, you may have symptoms such as:
- bumps or hives
- redness or discoloration
What might help
If you develop a rash during treatment with Afinitor, talk with your doctor. In some cases, a rash can also be a sign of an allergic reaction. Your doctor may wish to see your rash to help determine its cause.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend a cream, ointment, or medication such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to treat your rash symptoms.
Mouth sores may occur during Afinitor treatment. Symptoms may include:
- redness or discoloration
In studies, mouth sores were a common side effect reported by people taking Afinitor. Although most mouth sores are mild, it’s possible to develop more severe mouth sores.
What might help
To lower your risk of mouth sores from Afinitor, your doctor will likely recommend that you use alcohol-free mouthwash that contains dexamethasone. If you develop mouth sores while using this rinse, they will likely be less severe.
If you notice that you’re developing mouth sores, tell your doctor. They‘ll likely recommend that you use a mouthwash or a different treatment for your mouth sores.
If you develop mouth sores, try to avoid alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, thyme, or any products that have these ingredients in them. They may make your mouth sores worse.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you stop taking Afinitor until your mouth sores heal. If your sores are severe, they may recommend restarting Afinitor at a lower dose after your mouth heals. Or they may recommend that you stop taking Afinitor permanently.
Talk with your doctor about the best way to help prevent and treat any mouth sores that may occur during Afinitor treatment.
It’s possible that Afinitor could cause pneumonitis (swelling in your lungs) in some people. In studies, this was a common side effect in people taking Afinitor. In rare cases, pneumonitis can be severe or even life threatening.
Afinitor can cause a specific kind of pneumonitis that’s not related to an infection. This means that the swelling is not due to a virus or bacteria and is not contagious.
Symptoms of this kind of pneumonitis may include:
What might help
It’s important to contact your doctor right away if you develop symptoms of pneumonitis. Your doctor may recommend that you get a chest X-ray to see if you do have pneumonitis.
If your pneumonitis is severe, your doctor may have you temporarily or permanently stop taking Afinitor and switch to a different treatment.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Afinitor.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Afinitor. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use.
Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz are available as the generic drug everolimus. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know about taking generic everolimus.
If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Afinitor manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.
You can also check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.
Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz have some common uses and others that vary.
Afinitor can be used to treat the following conditions in adults.
- Hormone-receptor positive, HER-2 negative metastatic breast cancer. For this purpose, it’s used for females* who’ve gone through menopause and who’ve already tried letrozole (Femara) or anastrozole (Arimidex). Afinitor is taken with exemestane (Aromasin) to treat breast cancer.
- Neuroendocrine tumors causing pancreatic cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, or lung cancer. “Neuroendocrine” means the tumors form in certain nerve cells and cells that make hormones. In these cases, Afinitor can be used if your cancer can’t be surgically removed or if it has spread to other areas of your body. But Afinitor should not be used to treat carcinoid tumors (a kind of slow-growing neuroendocrine tumor).
- Advanced renal cell cancer, a kind of kidney cancer. For this purpose, Afinitor is only used after you’ve already had treatment with sunitinib (Sutent) or sorafenib (Nexavar).
- A kind of kidney tumor called renal angiomyolipoma with a genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis (TS).
* In this article, we use the terms “females” and “males” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
Afinitor treats cancer by blocking the blood supply to cancer cells. This kills the cancer and helps prevent the cancer from spreading.
Afinitor Disperz is used in adults and in children ages 2 years and older who have focal onset seizures (also called partial seizures) that are related to TS. For this purpose, Afinitor Disperz is used along with other treatments. Examples include lamotrigine (Lamictal) and carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol).
Both Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz are used in adults and in children ages 1 year and older who have TS and subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (SEGA). SEGA is a kind of noncancerous brain tumor. For this purpose, Afinitor or Afinitor Disperz can be used if the tumor can’t be removed with surgery.
Seizures related to TS may be caused by the overgrowth of certain cells in the brain. It’s not known exactly how Afinitor or Afinitor Disperz work to treat seizures related to TS. But it’s thought that the drugs work by blocking the overgrowth of cells so that seizures occur less often.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Afinitor.
What’s the success rate with Afinitor treatment? Are any success stories available?
Afinitor is an effective treatment for certain kinds of cancers, tumors, or seizure disorders. For specific information about the success rates and effectiveness of Afinitor for your condition, see the drug’s prescribing information.
The drug manufacturer’s website has success stories from people who’ve taken Afinitor for certain conditions. Choose your condition below to watch videos of these success stories.
Your results from Afinitor may differ from those seen in the videos. If you have questions about what to expect from your Afinitor treatment, talk with your doctor.
How does Afinitor work? Is it a chemotherapy drug?
No, Afinitor is not a chemotherapy drug. Afinitor is known as a mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) blocker.
The way Afinitor works (also called its mechanism of action) is that it blocks a protein called mTOR. This protein helps cells grow and divide. In people with certain cancers or TS, mTOR works differently than it should. By blocking mTOR, Afinitor stops new blood vessels from forming. This kills the cancer and slows the tumor’s growth.
Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz are also used to treat certain seizure disorders related to TS. People with TS don’t make certain proteins that are needed to manage mTOR. This causes an overgrowth of cells, which can lead to seizures. Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz work to block mTOR so that seizures occur less often.
Is Afinitor similar to Zortress?
Afinitor and Zortress are similar and some ways and different in others. They have the same active ingredient, everolimus. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) But these drugs are used for different conditions.
Both Afinitor and Zortress come as a tablet that you swallow. But these drugs have different strengths and dosages. They can cause different side effects, too.
Because of all these differences, Afinitor and Zortress are not considered interchangeable. You should always take the medication and dose that your doctor prescribes.
If you have questions about whether Afinitor or Zortress may be right for your condition, talk with your doctor.
Does Afinitor treat lung cancer or liver cancer?
No, Afinitor is not used to treat liver cancer or most lung cancers. It’s not known if Afinitor is safe or effective for people with these conditions.
Afinitor is used to treat neuroendocrine tumors that begin in your lungs. But at this time, the drug isn’t prescribed to treat other forms of lung cancer.
Some studies have been done to see if everolimus (the active ingredient in Afinitor) may be effective at treating liver cancer. One 2014
If you have lung or liver cancer, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
Is Afinitor used for HER-2 positive breast cancer?
Afinitor is not currently approved to treat HER-2 positive breast cancer. But in some cases, doctors may prescribe Afinitor off label for this condition. (With off-label drug use, a drug is prescribed for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.)
A study looked at using everolimus (the active ingredient in Afinitor) along with other drugs as a treatment option for HER-2 positive breast cancer. The study showed that everolimus might slow the progression of cancer. But more studies are needed to determine if Afinitor may be a safe or effective treatment option for HER-2 positive breast cancer.
If you’re interested in using Afinitor to treat HER-2 positive breast cancer, talk with your doctor. They can help you determine if Afinitor may be an effective treatment for you.
Will I have hair loss with Afinitor?
Some people may have hair loss during their Afinitor treatment. But in studies, hair loss was only reported in people taking Afinitor along with exemestane (Aromasin) to treat breast cancer. Hair loss was not reported in people taking Afinitor to treat other conditions.
If you experience hair loss from Afinitor that bothers you, talk with your doctor. They may be able to help determine the cause of your hair loss. In some cases, they may recommend treatment options, such as minoxidil (Rogaine) to help prevent hair loss from getting worse.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Afinitor that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Forms and strengths
Afinitor comes as a tablet that you swallow. It’s available in four strengths: 2.5 milligrams (mg), 5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg.
Afinitor Disperz comes as a liquid suspension. (With a liquid suspension, you dissolve a tablet in water and then drink the liquid.) Afinitor Disperz tablets come in three strengths: 2 mg, 3 mg, and 5 mg.
You’ll take Afinitor once per day. Your dose will depend on the condition you’re taking the drug to treat. Your doctor will prescribe a dosage of Afinitor that’s right for you.
Your doctor may use blood tests to monitor how much Afinitor is in your body. They may adjust your dose of Afinitor based on your test results.
In some cases, such as if you have liver problems or take other drugs that interact with Afinitor, your doctor may need to adjust your dosage. Your doctor may also adjust your Afinitor dosage if you experience side effects during treatment.
Questions about Afinitor’s dosage
- What if I miss a dose of Afinitor? If you miss a dose, you can take it as soon as you remember if it’s within 6 hours of when you should have taken it. If it’s been longer than 6 hours since you were scheduled to take it, skip that dose and take your next dose at the usual time. You should not take two doses of Afinitor to make up for a missed dose. Doing so could raise your risk of side effects. If you missed a dose of Afinitor and aren’t sure when to take your next dose, call your doctor or pharmacist.
- Will I need to take Afinitor long term? Yes. If Afinitor is working to treat your condition, you’ll likely take it long term. Your doctor will likely have you keep taking Afinitor unless your condition becomes worse or if you develop bothersome side effects.
- How long does Afinitor take to work? Afinitor begins to work as soon as you take your first dose. But it may take time before you notice any changes in your condition. If you have questions about what to expect during Afinitor treatment, talk with your doctor.
Your doctor will explain how you should take Afinitor. They will also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Afinitor comes as a tablet that you swallow. You’ll take Afinitor once per day.
Afinitor Disperz comes as a liquid suspension. (With a liquid suspension, you dissolve a tablet in water and then drink the liquid.) Afinitor Disperz is also taken once per day.
Afinitor or Afinitor Disperz should be taken at about the same time each day.
Accessible medication containers and labels
If it’s hard for you to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies may provide medication labels that:
- have large print
- use braille
- contain a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text into audio
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that offers these options if your current pharmacy doesn’t.
Also, if you’re having trouble opening your medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to put Afinitor in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also recommend tools to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.
Taking Afinitor with other drugs
In certain cases, your doctor may recommend that you take Afinitor along with other medications to treat your condition. For example, if you take Afinitor for breast cancer, you will likely take it with another medication called exemestane (Aromasin).
If you’re taking Afinitor to treat kidney cancer, your doctor may prescribe it along with lenvatinib (Lenvima). Or if you take Afinitor Disperz for seizures from tuberous sclerosis, your doctor may prescribe it with another seizure drug. Examples include lamotrigine (Lamictal) and carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol).
Before you start taking Afinitor, talk with your doctor about your specific treatment plan. They will determine whether you should take Afinitor alone or with other medications to treat your condition.
Questions about taking Afinitor
- Can Afinitor be chewed, crushed, or split? No. You should swallow Afinitor tablets whole. Do not chew, crush, or split the tablets. If you have trouble swallowing your Afinitor tablets, see this article for tips on swallowing a pill. If you still have trouble, talk with your doctor. They may be able to switch your prescription to Afinitor Disperz, which is a liquid suspension. (With a liquid suspension, you dissolve a tablet in water and then drink the liquid.)
- Should I take Afinitor with food? You can take your dose of Afinitor with or without food. But you should consistently take it the same way. So whether you start by taking Afinitor with or without food, continue doing that throughout your treatment.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about Afinitor and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
- How will Afinitor affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
Before you start taking Afinitor, talk with your doctor about any medical conditions that you have or other medications that you take. This can help your doctor determine whether Afinitor may be a safe or effective treatment option for you.
Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.
Before taking Afinitor, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter types. Also, describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with Afinitor.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Afinitor can interact with several kinds of drugs. Examples of these drugs include:
- angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which lower blood pressure. Examples include:
- lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
- enalapril (Vasotec)
- benazepril (Lotensin)
- the blood pressure drug diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia XT)
- the antifungal drug ketoconazole
- the seizure drugs phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek) and phenobarbital
- the antibiotic drugs clarithromycin and rifampin (Rimactane, Rifadin)
This list does not contain all types of drugs that may interact with Afinitor. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with Afinitor.
See below for details about other interactions that can occur with Afinitor.
St. John’s wort
Afinitor may interact with St. John’s wort, an herbal supplement. Before starting Afinitor treatment, be sure to tell your doctor about any herbal supplements that you take.
Afinitor can interact with grapefruit. Due to this risk, you should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking Afinitor.
You should avoid getting any live vaccines during your Afinitor treatment. It’s also recommended that you avoid close contact with people who’ve recently received a live vaccine.
Live vaccines contain a weakened form of the virus or bacteria it protects against. But it should be safe to get inactivated (non-live) vaccines during your treatment.
Examples of live vaccines include:
Before starting Afinitor treatment, talk with your doctor about any vaccines you may need.
Afinitor may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Afinitor. Factors to consider include those in the list below.
- Kidney problems. If you have any kidney problems, tell your doctor before starting Afinitor. Afinitor can cause kidney problems, and if you already have kidney problems, the drug could make them worse. Your doctor may monitor your kidney function throughout your treatment. They’ll determine whether it’s safe for you to take Afinitor.
- Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Afinitor or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Afinitor. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
- Surgery. Afinitor may slow your wound healing. Talk with your doctor if you’ve recently had surgery or are planning to have surgery soon. Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking Afinitor before an upcoming surgery to help prevent slower wound healing. In some cases, you may stop treatment for 1 to 2 weeks or until your wounds begin to heal. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you if you’re having surgery.
- Liver problems. If you have liver problems, you may have a higher risk of side effects from Afinitor. Due to this risk, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose of Afinitor for you. If you have any liver conditions, talk with your doctor before starting Afinitor treatment.
- Diabetes. Afinitor can cause high blood sugar. Before taking this drug, tell your doctor if you already have high blood sugar or diabetes. Afinitor could make your condition worse, so your doctor may want to monitor your blood sugar level more closely during treatment. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose of Afinitor or recommend a different treatment option for you.
- High cholesterol or high triglycerides. Afinitor may cause high cholesterol or high triglycerides. If you already have one of these conditions, taking Afinitor could make it worse. Your doctor may monitor your cholesterol or triglyceride levels more closely during your treatment. If your levels become too high, your doctor may lower your dose of Afinitor or have you switch to a different treatment option.
- Current infections. Afinitor may cause a decrease in your white blood cell count, which may weaken your immune system. Because of this, your body may not be able to fight off an infection as well as it usually would. Your doctor will likely recommend treating any current infections before you start taking Afinitor.
- Hepatitis B. If you‘ve ever had hepatitis B, tell your doctor before taking Afinitor. This drug may weaken your immune system, which can cause hepatitis B to reactivate (flare up). Your doctor may want to monitor you more closely for symptoms of hepatitis B during your Afinitor treatment. If they confirm that hepatitis B is reactivated, they may have you stop taking Afinitor. In this case, your doctor will likely prescribe a hepatitis B treatment.
- Radiation treatment. If you’re receiving radiation treatment, tell your doctor before taking Afinitor. You may have a higher risk of side effects from the radiation while taking Afinitor. In some cases, you may experience severe side effects. Afinitor can affect radiation treatment that you receive before, during, or after your Afinitor treatment. To learn more, talk with your doctor.
- Older age. Adults ages 65 years and older may have a higher risk of side effects from Afinitor. Some of these side effects can be serious and, in rare cases, even life threatening. If you’re age 65 years or older, your doctor may monitor you more closely for serious side effects during Afinitor treatment.
Afinitor and alcohol
It should be safe to drink alcohol during your Afinitor treatment. But some of the side effects of Afinitor, such as nausea and headache, may also be caused by alcohol. So drinking alcohol during your Afinitor treatment may raise your risk of certain side effects.
If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much may be safe for you to drink during your treatment.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
You should not take Afinitor during pregnancy. Due to the possible risks, if you’re able to become pregnant, your doctor will likely recommend that you take a pregnancy test before starting Afinitor treatment. You’ll also need to use birth control while taking Afinitor and for at least 8 weeks after your last dose. If you’re a male* with a partner who can become pregnant, you’ll need to use birth control during your Afinitor treatment and for at least 4 weeks after your last dose.
Breastfeeding is not recommended during Afinitor treatment and for at least 2 weeks after your last dose. This is because it’s not known if Afinitor passes into breast milk or what effects the drug may have on a breastfed child.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant or to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
* In this article, we use the term “males” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
Do not take more Afinitor than your doctor prescribes. Taking more than this can lead to serious side effects.
What to do in case you take too much Afinitor
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Afinitor. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room.
Before you start taking Afinitor, talk with your doctor about what to expect. You may wish to discuss possible side effects and your treatment plan, among other things. Here are some questions that can help get your conversation started:
- If Afinitor isn’t working for me, can my dose be increased?
- How can I help prevent side effects from Afinitor?
- What should I do if I become pregnant while taking this medication?
- How should my Afinitor dosage change if I develop serious side effects during my treatment?
If you’d like to learn more about other treatment options for breast cancer, see this article. You can also sign up for Healthline’s online newsletter to get the latest information on treatments and advice for managing your condition. Or join Healthline’s breast cancer community for insights and support from others living with breast cancer.
Could other medications that I take along with Afinitor increase my risk of side effects?Anonymous
Yes, taking certain medications along with Afinitor could raise your risk of side effects.
In fact, in studies of Afinitor, some side effects were only reported in people taking the drug with certain other medications. For example, hair loss and hot flashes were only reported in people who took Afinitor with exemestane (Aromasin).
If you have questions about taking Afinitor with your other medications, talk with your doctor. They can determine your risk of side effects from Afinitor when taken with these other drugs.Amber Watson, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.