Antihistamines May Improve Survival Among Patients With Malignant Melanoma

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In a research letter published by Fritz et al in the journal Allergy, researchers reported that the common allergy medications desloratadine and loratadine may be associated with improved survival in patients with malignant melanoma.

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“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 lead study author Håkan Olsson, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Oncology at Lund University.


In the study, the researchers examined the use of six antihistamines in patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma: desloratadine, cetirizine, loratadine, clemastine, ebastine, and fexofenadine.

They matched information from three large registers (the prescribed drug register, cancer register, and cause of death register) of the Swedish population for those who had been first diagnosed with skin cancer between 2006 and 2014 (n = 24,562). Of these individuals, 1,253 were antihistamine users. Most used desloratadine (n = 395), cetirizine (n = 324), loratadine (n = 251), or clemastine (n = 192). The other antihistamines were used by considerably fewer individuals. Follow-up was completed in December 2018.


“We observed improved survival among those who used desloratadine and, to a certain extent, also loratadine, particularly [those aged] 65 and older [vs] those who had not used antihistamines. 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,” said Dr. Olsson. “The finding is interesting…and may also help in advanced stages of the disease. In addition, the medicines have virtually no side effects.”

The research team is now planning animal experiments and randomized studies in order to understand the mechanisms behind the effect, the appropriate dose, and the 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,” concluded Dr. Olsson.

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