Histamine targets myeloid-derived suppressor cells and improves the anti-tumor efficacy of PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint blockade

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2019 Feb;68(2):163-174. doi: 10.1007/s00262-018-2253-6. Epub 2018 Oct 12.


Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are immature monocytes and granulocytes that impede immune-mediated clearance of malignant cells by multiple mechanisms, including the formation of immunosuppressive reactive oxygen species (ROS) via the myeloid cell NADPH oxidase (NOX2). Histamine dihydrochloride (HDC), a NOX2 inhibitor, exerts anti-cancer efficacy in experimental tumor models but the detailed mechanisms are insufficiently understood. To determine effects of HDC on the MDSC compartment we utilized three murine cancer models known to entail accumulation of MDSC, i.e. EL-4 lymphoma, MC-38 colorectal carcinoma, and 4T1 mammary carcinoma. In vivo treatment with HDC delayed EL-4 and 4T1 tumor growth and reduced the ROS formation by intratumoral MDSCs. HDC treatment of EL-4 bearing mice also reduced the accumulation of intratumoral MDSCs and reduced MDSC-induced suppression of T cells ex vivo. Experiments using GR1-depleted and Nox2 knock out mice supported that the anti-tumor efficacy of HDC required presence of NOX2+ GR1+ cells in vivo. In addition, treatment with HDC enhanced the anti-tumor efficacy of programmed cell death receptor 1 (PD-1) and PD-1 ligand checkpoint blockade in EL-4- and MC-38-bearing mice. Immunomodulatory effects of a HDC-containing regimen on MDSCs were further analyzed in a phase IV trial (Re:Mission Trial, ClinicalTrials.gov; NCT01347996) where patients with acute myeloid leukemia received HDC in conjunction with low-dose IL-2 (HDC/IL-2) for relapse prevention. Peripheral CD14+HLA-DR-/low MDSCs (M-MDSCs) were reduced during cycles of HDC/IL-2 therapy and a pronounced reduction of M-MDSCs during HDC/IL-2 treatment heralded favorable clinical outcome. We propose that anti-tumor properties of HDC may comprise the targeting of MDSCs.

Keywords: Checkpoint inhibition; Histamine dihydrochloride; Myeloid-derived suppressor cells; NOX2; PD-1; Reactive oxygen species.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antibodies / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use
  • B7-H1 Antigen / antagonists & inhibitors
  • B7-H1 Antigen / immunology
  • B7-H1 Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Clinical Trials, Phase IV as Topic
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Histamine / pharmacology*
  • Histamine / therapeutic use
  • Histamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Histamine Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / drug effects*
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / immunology
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies
  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Histamine Agonists
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • Histamine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01347996