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You might already have the next cancer treatment in your cupboard

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Commonly used antihistamines could help fight cancer

Researchers have discovered antihistamines used to treat allergy have unique anti-cancer properties that are just now being recognized. You might already have the next cancer fighting drug in your home medicine cupboard.

Drugs that are sold over-the-counter that block the action of histamines have the ability to interfere with cells in the body that allow cancerous tumors to grow. Scientists used a common antihistamine for a ne experiment that opens doors for more research into how allergy medicines might help treat cancer.

Antihistamines as cancer therapy

Past studies have linked higher risk of cancer among people that suffer from various types of allergies.

Scientists from the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center published findings In March that histamines release that occurs in response to allergy has a protective effect on cancer.

The connection between allergies and cancer is just beginning to evolve.

Daniel H. Conrad, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia said in a press release, "It's important to realize, however, that this connection is very novel and more research is needed before we know if antihistamines can be used effectively in cancer therapies."

Antihistamines could have a future role for cancer immunotherapy

For their study Conrad and his team infected mice with an intestinal “worm” to produce a strong allergic response.

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Based on past investigations the team knew allergy increases circulating levels of myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that have a tendency to migrate toward cells that release histamine (mast cells).

The scientists then injected the mice with myeloid derived suppressor cells and then treated them with the over-the-counter histamine blocker cimetidine whose brand name is Tagamet.

Cimetidine treatment slowed the growth of tumor cells that is normally seen from MDSCs.

The scientists also confirmed higher levels of circulating MDSCs in the blood of people with allergies that was compared to a non-allergic control group.

"Antihistamines may be one of the most commonly used over-the-counter drugs, but this report shows that we still have much to learn about their potential benefits," said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

He adds it isn’t time to start taking antihistamines to prevent cancer. There is still much to be learned about myeloid derived suppressor cells and their role as a potential immunotherapy for cancer.


Rebecca K. Martin, et al
"Mast cell histamine promotes the immunoregulatory activity of myeloid-derived suppressor cells."
J. Leukoc. Biol. July 2014 96:151-159;
doi:10.1189/jlb.5A1213-644R ; http://www.jleukbio.org/content/96/1/151.abstract

Image credit: Pixabay


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