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Media opportunity: Dalhousie study shows high doses of common over‑the‑counter antacids impact our immune system

Posted by Communications and Marketing on May 3, 2021 in News

A new study by researchers at Dalhousie University shows that high doses of common, over-the-counter antacid medications can modify our immune system in ways that might be beneficial in fighting cancer.

Immunologists at Dal had previously determined that Zantac, which contains the active ingredient ranitidine and other antacid drugs reduced breast tumour growth and development in mice if given in higher than usual doses. They then needed to determine if this treatment affected the immune system in people, both to see if changes occurred that might help fight cancer and to make sure that such elevated doses would not decrease the number of neutrophils -- white blood cells that are critical for combatting bacterial infections.

With the support of the Canadian Cancer Society, Dr. Jean Marshall and Dr. Lisa Barrett of Dalhousie’s Microbiology and Immunology Department launched a study with 29 healthy people, whose blood was tested repeatedly as they were given high doses of ranitidine.

They discovered that there was no decrease in the participants’ neutrophils, but also that the drug appears to have reduced the number of certain B cells and other cells that can impede the anti-cancer function of the immune system. The findings indicate that it would be safe to use the high doses in a human trial and also that it could have similar effects in humans as in mice.

Dr. Marshall is available to discuss the recently published study and how the immune effects of these widely used drugs should be considered in clinical trials, and if they could be used as an adjunct to existing cancer therapies.

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Media contact:
Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Dalhousie University
Cell: 1-902-220-0491


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