This drug may improve survival in skin cancer patients

London: A team of researchers claim that common allergy drug — antihistamines — can improve the survival among patients suffering from serious skin cancer which is also known as malignant melanoma.

Antihistamines are drugs which treat allergic rhinitis and other allergies.

Typically people take antihistamines as an inexpensive, generic, over-the-counter drug that can provide relief from nasal congestion, sneezing or animal allergy with few side effects.

“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”, said study researcher Hakan Olsson from the Lund University in Sweden.

For the findings, published in the journal Allergy, the researchers examined the use of six antihistamines in patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma; desloratadine, cetirizine, loratadine, clemastine, ebastine and fexofenadine.

They have matched information from three large registers (the prescribed drug register, cancer register and cause of death register) for everyone in Sweden between 2006 and 2014 who received their first diagnosis of skin cancer, a total of 24 562 individuals.

Of these individuals, 1 253 were antihistamine users. Most used desloratadine (395) cetirizine (324), loratadine (251) or clemastine (192). The other antihistamines were used by considerably fewer individuals.

“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,” Olsson said.

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 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,” Olsson added.

The research team is now planning animal experiments and randomised studies in order to understand the mechanisms behind the effect, the appropriate dose and optimum treatment period.

“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,” Olsson added.

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