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Antihistamine and Anti-inflammatory Drug Use Associated Differently for High-Grade Versus Low-Grade Gliomas: Abstract No. 486

Posted on: 04/04/2006

Source: presented today at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research

Antihistamine and Anti-inflammatory Drug Use Associated Differently for High-Grade Versus Low-Grade Gliomas: Abstract No. 486

Individuals who used antihistamines regularly for a six-month period or longer have nearly a three-fold greater risk of developing mid-grade brain tumors, and a two-fold risk of having low-grade tumors. Using anti-inflammatory medications helped protect against developing a deadly brain tumor called glioblastoma.

The researchers, led by Michael Scheurer, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in Cancer Prevention and Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., professor of Epidemiology, both at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, cautioned that they are not implying that use of antihistamines causes brain tumors, but rather that these medications may be part of a complex milieu of factors that contribute to their development.

Scheurer and Bondy used combined data from two studies: the Harris County Adult Glioma Study and the Bay Area Adult Glioma Study, led by Margaret Wrensch, Ph.D. at the University of California, San Francisco. As part of the studies, participants were asked about their use of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs.

They compared antihistamine and anti-inflammatory drug use in 830 brain tumor cases and 831 controls matched for age, gender and race. The tumors were analyzed by histologic type. The majority – 339 – were high-grade glioblastomas; 117 were mid-grade, or anaplastic astrocytoma; and 154 cases were low-grade.

The scientists found that regular, long-term antihistamine use was associated with an increased risk for developing anaplastic astrocytomas and low-grade brain tumors.

“To our knowledge, this report is the first time that anyone has looked at this particular relationship – the potential effects of antihistamines on the development of brain tumors in adults,” said Scheurer. “It’s apparent that some type of inflammatory response is playing some role in the development of brain tumors. We don’t know exactly what that role is or the specific mechanisms, but we’re on the road to finding out.

“This again points to the fact that brain tumors are caused by a combination of several environmental, endogenous and genetic factors,” he said. “They are not related to one specific cause, but rather, to several that are interplaying with one another to create tumors. We’re trying to figure out what those key factors and genes are and how they interact with one another.”

Scheurer said several studies have reported that people with allergies or asthma have a lower risk of developing glioblastomas. One report showed that those who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, also have a reduced risk for developing such high-grade tumors. He and Bondy focused on antihistamines because people who have allergies typically take antihistamines.

“We knew that the different types of tumors have different etiologies and different genetic characteristics and we wanted to see if there were differences in risk,” Bondy said.

Scheurer and Bondy are also looking at certain different variations of genes in individuals and how they respond to inflammatory processes in the brain. “We’re hopefully looking at some genes related to inflammatory cytokines and we’ll see how individual response to inflammatory stimuli may increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing a brain tumor,” Scheurer said.

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