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Cancer Invest. 2000;18(4):347-55.

Histamine: a novel approach to cancer immunotherapy.

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Department of Virology, University of Göteborg, Sweden.


The functions of intratumoral lymphocytes in many human malignant tumors are inhibited by reactive oxygen species (ROS), generated by adjacent monocytes/macrophages (MO). In vitro data suggest that immunotherapeutic cytokines such as interleukin-2 (IL-2) or interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) only weakly activate T cells or natural killer (NK) cells in a reconstituted environment of oxidative stress and that inhibitors of the formation of ROS or scavengers of ROS synergize with IL-2 and IFN-alpha to activate T cells and NK cells. In this review, we focus on the immunoenhancing properties of histamine, a biogenic amine. Histamine inhibits ROS formation in MO via H2-receptors; thereby, histamine protects NK cells from MO-mediated inhibition and synergizes with IL-2 and IFN-alpha to induce killing of NK cell-sensitive human tumor cells in vitro. Histamine also optimizes cytokine-induced activation of several subsets of T cells by affording protection against MO-inflicted oxidative inhibition. The putative clinical benefit of histamine as an adjunct to immunotherapy with IL-2 and/or IFN-alpha is currently evaluated in clinical trials in metastatic malignant melanoma and acute myelogenous leukemia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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