Researchers Find Allergy Medication Could Aid Treatment for Lung Cancer


Immune cells in lung cancer are connected to allergic conditions found in eczema and asthma.

New study findings announce a blocked allergy pathway could unleash antitumor immunity to aid non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The study was conducted by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Female doctor hand holding pack of different tablet blisters - Image credit: Megaflopp |

Image credit: Megaflopp |

“Immunotherapy using checkpoint blockade has revolutionized treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of lung cancer, but currently only about a third of patients respond to it alone, and in most patients, the benefit is temporary,” said Miriam Merad, MD, PhD, senior study author, Director of the Marc and Jennifer Lipschultz Precision Immunology Institute and Chair of the Department of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in a press release.

The study authors noted that the current research was conducted on mouse models, although a parallel study was previously assessed in humans. The researchers combined immunotherapy with interleukin 4 (IL-4), a receptor-blocking antibody that is typically used to treat individuals that experience allergies and asthma. The results found that IL-4 could boost individuals’ immune systems. According to researchers, 1 out of 6 individuals included in the study displayed substantial tumor reduction.

“A big focus of our program TARGET is to use single cell technology and artificial intelligence to identify molecular immune programs that can dampen tumor immune response to checkpoint blockade,” said Merad, in a press release.

The checkpoint blockade is defined as a type of cancer immunotherapy that is able to release the cancer-killing action of T cells— also called the PD1 inhibitor, noted the study authors.

The researchers used single cell technologies and found that the immune cells in lung cancers displayed “type 2” immune response. Merad said that this immune response is connected to allergic conditions found in eczema and asthma.

Thomas Marron, MD, PhD, Director of the Early Phase Trial Unit at Mount Sinai’s Tisch Cancer Center, and co-senior author of the study, said that the findings allowed researchers to evaluate if medication used for allergy could be expended to “enhance tumor response to checkpoint blockade.”

“Strikingly, we found that IL-4 blockade enhanced lung cancer response to checkpoint blockade in mice and in 6 lung cancer patients with treatment-resistant disease. In fact, one patient whose lung cancer was growing despite checkpoint blockade had nearly all their cancer disappear after receiving just three doses of the allergy medication, and his cancer remains controlled today, over 17 months later," said Marron, in a press release.

While the results are promising, the researchers are working to further expand the trial. Currently, the study is assessing adding IL-4 to the checkpoint blockade with a larger group of individuals with lung cancer.

With a grant received from the Cancer Research Institute, Marron is studying the effects of early-stage lung cancer.

The results from both trials could aid the advancement of what cancer patients could benefit from treatment with IL-4, through the prediction of biomarkers.


A type of allergy medicine might help treat lung cancer, research suggests. EurekAlert!. News Release. December 6, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023.

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