Findings from a new study suggest certain common antihistamines may improve survival in patients with some malignant melanomas.
In a press release from Lund University in Sweden, where the research was conducted, senior author Dr. Håkan Olsson said: “Previous studies have shown that the same antihistamines have survival benefits in breast cancer. Now we see the same thing concerning malignant melanoma. However, more research is required to confirm the results.”
In the study, the researchers examined the use of six antihistamines—desloratadine, cetirizine, loratadine, clemastine, ebastine and fexofenadine—in patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
Data was matched between three large registries—the Swedish prescribed drug registry, cancer registry, and cause of death registry—for everyone in Sweden who received their first diagnosis of skin cancer between 2006 and 2014. This totalled 24,562 individuals, of which 1,253 were antihistamine users. Most of the antihistamine users used desloratadine (395), cetirizine (324), loratadine (251) or clemastine (192).
Follow-up on individuals in the study was conducted in Dec. 2018.
“We observed improved survival among those who used desloratadine and to a certain extent also loratadine, particularly in the age group 65 and older, when we compared with those who had not used antihistamines,” said Dr. Olsson. “The use of the other antihistamines showed no significant survival effect. The use of desloratadine and loratadine also seemed to reduce the risk of getting a new malignant melanoma.”
The paper was published online ahead of print in Allergy (Mar. 14, 2020).
“The finding is interesting for a future drug against melanoma and may also help in advanced stages of the disease. In addition, the medicines have virtually no side effects.”
According to the release, the research team is now planning animal experiments and randomized studies in order to understand the mechanisms behind the effect, the appropriate dose and optimum treatment period.
“We are collaborating with researchers in Barcelona and Stockholm. In Lund, we are underway with studies in both animal and human subjects, in which doses of antihistamines will be compared with the patients who do not take antihistamines, in order to measure the treatment effect,” said Dr. Olsson.