Mast cells and histamine enhance the proliferation of non-small cell lung cancer cells

Evgeniy Stoyanov, Mohib Uddin, David Mankuta, Steven M. Dubinett, Francesca Levi-Schaffer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer with an extremely low survival rate. It is characterized by a chronic inflammatory process with intense mast cell infiltrate that is associated with reduced survival. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that mast cells have an enhancing effect on NSCLC proliferation. To assess the tumor-promoting potential of mast cells, we used the human alveolar basal adenocarcinoma (A549) and the mouse Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) cell lines, umbilical cord blood-derived mast cells (CBMC) and the mast cell-deficient mouse Sash model. The proliferation rate of A549/LLC cells was markedly increased by mast cells and histamine. Histamine proliferating activity was mediated via H 1, H 2 and H 4 receptors and caused ERK phosphorylation. LLC induced in Sash mice or in wild-type mice treated with the mast cell stabilizer nedocromil sodium displayed an accelerated growth (number of metastic colonies in the lungs, total lung area and lung/total mice weight ratio). In summary, we have shown a significant effect of mast cells and histamine in enhancing NSCLC/LLCX growth in vitro, while in a mouse LLC model in vivo we have found that mast cells are important negative regulators of cancer development. Therefore our results would indicate a pro-tumorogenic effect of the mast cells in vitro on established lung tumor cell lines, and anti-tumorogenic effect in mice at lung cancer induction. In conclusion, mast cell/anti-histamine targeted therapies should carefully consider this dual effect.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
JournalLung Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partly supported by a grant from the Aimwell Charitable Trust (London, UK) to FLS.


  • Histamine
  • LLC
  • Mast cells
  • Nedocromil sodium
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Sash mice


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