Before reviewing this week’s article, I wanted to remind you all about my Science News Pinterest board! (The link to it is always in the header on every page of my blog.) There, you will find links to a lot of immunology, cancer, and therapeutics articles- including ones not highlighted on Science Sunday. So please check it out!
This week’s article is VCU researchers find treatment link between cancer and allergy medication, originally published on April 24 by an NBC News local affiliate. A link to the scientific journal article is here.
The important point from this article is the following quote:
“Histamine enhanced these cells that suppress the immune system,” Conrad said. “When you suppress the immune system, cancer cells or tumor cells can grow more readily.”… “When she added an anti-histamine then that reversed this effect,” Conrad added.
In the world of cancer immunology, one of the big problems is that cancer cells are notorious for causing the body to suppress the immune system. When the immune system is suppressed, it cannot kill “bad” cells, such as infected cells or cancer cells. The hallmark of an allergic reaction is the production of histamine, and this study showed that histamine can promote a type of cell that suppress the immune system, called myeloid derived suppressor cells. In a patient with cancer, this only exacerbates the effect that the tumor is already having. Though this study was done in mice and not in humans, if this research translates it could mean that antihistamines, which are available at any neighborhood pharmacy and include drugs such as Zyrtec (used in this study) and Benadryl, could be a useful addition to cancer therapy in the future. They would reverse the effects of histamine and allow the immune system to carry out its normal functions instead of being suppressed.