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Cancer. 1997 Jul 1;80(1):15-21.

Pilot study--cimetidine enhances lymphocyte infiltration of human colorectal carcinoma: results of a small randomized control trial.

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University of New South Wales Department of Surgery, The St. George Hospital, Kogarah, Australia.



Cimetidine preserves postoperative immune function and inhibits the growth of some cancers. In this study, the effect of cimetidine on the local immune response to colorectal carcinoma was investigated.


Forty-two patients scheduled for elective resection of colorectal carcinoma were randomized either to receive cimetidine for 1 week perioperatively or to act as controls. A lymphocyte density of 50 cells per high-power field (approximately 50% of the tumor/tissue interface) was considered a positive response. Patient survival was determined by Kaplan-Meier life table analysis. The effects of histamine and cimetidine on normal subject lymphocyte function was determined in a mitogen-stimulated proliferation assay.


A positive lymphocyte response was observed in 5 of 24 control carcinoma patients (21%) and 10 of 18 cimetidine-treated carcinoma patients (56%) (P = 0.03). The presence of a lymphocyte response correlated with a better survival (P = 0.02). Histamine had an inhibitory effect on lymphocyte proliferation with a median effective dose of 5 x 10(-7) M. Cimetidine antagonized this effect with a negative logarithm of the cimetidine molar concentration required to reduce the effect of histamine in half of 6.55.


Histamine inhibits normal lymphocyte function, antagonized by cimetidine at a histamine type 2 receptor. Cimetidine increases lymphocyte infiltration of primary colorectal carcinoma, possibly by overcoming the immunosuppressive effects of high local histamine concentrations. The presence of a local lymphocyte response correlates with an improved 3-year survival.

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