Allergy Medications May Be The Next Class Of Cancer Fighting Drugs
July 1, 2014

Allergy Medications May Be The Next Class Of Cancer Fighting Drugs

Rebekah Eliason for – Your Universe Online

In a surprising discovery, researchers have noticed that the same kinds of drugs that relieve watery eyes and runny noses from allergies can also help fight off tumors. This new report suggests that antihistamines could have significant anti-cancer properties. These types of drugs interfere with the cell function “myeloid derived suppressor cells” that is known to reduce the body’s ability to fight tumors.

"This research is very exciting as it draws a connection between two diseases that aren't commonly linked: allergy and cancer," said Daniel H. Conrad, PhD, a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. "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."

In this study, Conrad and his team observed two groups of mice with myeloid derived suppressor cells. In the first group, mice were infected with a rodent intestinal helminth in order to induce a strong allergic response. Afterwards, the mice were treated with anti-histamines, cetirizine or cimetidine. The anti-histamine treatments were effective for reversing the effects of myeloid derived suppressor cells.

The second group of mice already had tumors and were injected with myeloid derived suppressor cells and treated with the antihistamine, cimetidine. These mice experienced the normal reversal of tumor growth seen with myeloid derived suppressor cell injection.

Lastly, the researchers studied blood from patients with allergy symptoms that are typically associated with increased histamine release. The team discovered that these patients had increased circulating myeloid derived suppressor cells over non-allergic controls.

"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, PhD, Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. "It is certainly not yet time to prophylactically administer antihistamines for cancer prevention, but the more we learn about myeloid derived suppressor cells, the more interesting these cells and their products become as immunotherapy targets in cancer. These new results suggest that we must be open-minded about seemingly distantly related immune mechanisms to examine."

This study was published July 2014 in The Journal of Leukocyte Biology.