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Histamine and cytokine therapy.

Journal article
Authors Kristoffer Hellstrand
Svante Hermodsson
Peter Naredi
Ulf-Henrik Mellqvist
Mats Brune
Published in Acta oncologica (Stockholm, Sweden)
Volume 37
Issue 4
Pages 347-53
ISSN 0284-186X
Publication year 1998
Published at Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Dept of Clinical Virology
Pages 347-53
Language en
Keywords Animals, Antineoplastic Agents, pharmacology, therapeutic use, Cimetidine, pharmacology, Combined Modality Therapy, Histamine, pharmacology, therapeutic use, Humans, Immunotherapy, Interferon-alpha, pharmacology, therapeutic use, Interleukin-2, pharmacology, therapeutic use, Killer Cells, Natural, physiology, Melanoma, therapy, Mice, Neoplasms, pathology, therapy, Skin Neoplasms, therapy, Treatment Outcome
Subject categories Cancer and Oncology


Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) are potent activators of natural killer (NK) cells and other anti-tumor effector cells, but the results obtained in clinical trials with these cytokines have proved disappointing in many forms of cancer. It may be that IL-2 and IFN-alpha are often not sufficiently effective because intratumoral monocytes/macrophages (MO) inhibit the cytokine-induced activation of cytotoxic effector lymphocytes such as NK-cells at the site of tumor growth. An essential part of this inhibitory signal is conveyed by MO-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS), which potently inhibit NK-cell-related functions, including the constitutive and cytokine-induced cytotoxicity against tumor cells. Histamine, a biogenic amine, inhibits ROS formation in MO; thereby, histamine synergizes with IL-2 and with IFN-alpha to induce killing of NK-cell-sensitive human tumor cells in vitro. Furthermore, treatment of tumor-bearing mice with histamine potentiates cytokine-induced killing of NK-cell-sensitive murine tumor cells in vivo. In ongoing clinical trials, histamine has been added to IL-2 or IFN-alpha in immunotherapy of human neoplastic disease. The results of two pilot trials in metastatic melanoma suggest that the addition of histamine to IL-2/IFN-alpha prolongs survival time and induces regression of tumors, such as liver melanoma, which are considered refractory to immunotherapy with IL-2 or IFN-alpha. In acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), histamine and IL-2 have been given in order to protect patients in remission against relapse of leukemic disease. The potential benefit of histamine therapy in melanoma and AML will be evaluated in randomized trials.

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