TREATMENTS FOR MAST CELL DISEASES
Mast Cell Activation/Mediator Release Symptoms
Controlling symptoms of mast cell activation/mediator release starts with avoiding the very triggers which we know will initiate mast cell activation in us, and the triggers can be very individual. Avoiding heat, cold, abrupt changes in temperature, sunlight, strong odors/perfumes and chemical smells can help many patients. Caution must be taken around venomous creatures such as bees, wasps, hornets, spiders, jellyfish and snakes, etc. Stress and fatigue can be major triggers for many patients, as can viruses, bacterial and fungal infections. Sometimes a simple change in routine can trigger us!
Many foods can trigger mast cells to activate and release their mediators; shellfish, peanuts, nuts, citrus, and high histamine foods are high on the list of potential triggers known to bother some people, but not others. Medications to be taken with caution include NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, toradol, aspirin (this can be confusing, because aspirin can also be used as a treatment for those with high prostaglandin levels; when used as a treatment it must be started under the supervision of a physician!), opioid narcotics, alcohol, the intravenous form of vancomycin (the oral form is usually fine), some anesthetics, some antibiotics, and topical agents, like benzocaine. However, everyone is different, and anyone can react to anything, and you can even react to something that you have never reacted to before, so always proceed with caution. Always have someone with you when taking a new medication, starting a new treatment, or traveling to a new place.
The most irritating thing can be that sometimes we do not even know what the trigger was that sent us into a mast cell frenzy! In that case, treat the symptoms, get some rest, and then review the last few days to see if you can spot a culprit. Also, remember that your response may be delayed. You may have an alcoholic drink on Saturday, and then be symptomatic several days later. Keeping a food, medicine and symptom diary can help you connect the dots!
Treatment of mastocytosis depends on the symptoms and the classification of disease.1-3 Symptoms of mast cell activation/mediator release are treated with H1 and H2 antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, leukotriene inhibitors, and possibly aspirin (under direct supervision of a physician). All mast cell disease patients should carry two doses of self-injectable epinephrine, unless otherwise contraindicated (glucagon may need to be administered for patients on beta-blockers). Patients should also be instructed on how to self-administer the epinephrine while lying down, to maximize rapid absorption of the drug. Every patient should carry a physician-signed American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Anaphylaxis Action Plan at all times.
Treatment of MCAS is similar to that listed above for mastocytosis symptoms related to mast cell activation and mediator release.4-6
There has been growing recognition of the detrimental effects on cognition (mental clouding and other cognitive impairments) caused by long term use of antihistamines.7 A high risk group of patients 65 years and older (defined as patients taking 50 mg per day for 3 years diphenhydramine or doxepin or 25 mg for 6 years), were found to have a significant association between diphenhydramine use and cognitive impairment.8 Similarly, high doses of sedating antihistamines such as diphenhydramine can cause increased seizure activity, seen mostly in children. In addition, a tolerance to or a dependence upon diphenhydramine may result in a need for even higher doses.7 Caution and restraint must be used when taking antihistamines long term in order to help preserve neurological function. While these drugs are critical to us for their antimediator effects, we must work with our physicians to titrate them to the lowest dose necessary to achieve control of mast cell activation symptoms.
Additional Symptoms of Indolent Systemic Mastocytosis
A suggested order of treatment options for adult patients with indolent systemic mastocytosis, aimed at symptom control, and including suggested therapies for osteoporosis, can be found in Table 3 of this article from the American Journal of Hematology.9
Therapies exist for smoldering systemic mastocytosis (SSM) and advanced systemic mastocytosis, and promising new treatments are being developed. Prominent among these newer treatments are tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) targeting the KIT kinase10, 11 (e.g., midostaurin10, 12). Imatinib is approved therapy for adult aggressive systemic mastocytosis (ASM) patients lacking the KIT D816V mutation or if mutation status is unknown. Additional standard therapies for advanced variants are interferon, the chemotherapeutic agent cladribine, and tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as midostaurin.9, 12 These chemotherapeutic agents are used in combination with antimediator therapy to control symptoms and reduce the overall mast cell burden. In patients with systemic mastocytosis with associated clonal hematologic non-mast cell lineage disease (SM-AHNMD)/systemic mastocytosis with an associated hematologic neoplasm (SM-AHN), therapy selection usually depends on the associated disease, which is commonly more aggressive than the SM part. Mast cell leukemia and sarcoma require a polychemotherapy approach. More information on therapies for advanced systemic mastocytosis variants can be found here.
- Carter MC, Metcalfe DD, Komarow HD. Mastocytosis. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2014 Feb;34(1):181-96. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24262698
- Fried AJ, Akin C. Primary mast cell disorders in children. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2013 Dec;13(6):693-701. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24150753
- Cardet JC, Akin C, Lee MJ. Mastocytosis: update on pharmacotherapy and future directions. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2013 Oct;14(15):2033-45. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24044484
- Lee MJ, Akin C. Mast cell activation syndromes. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013 Jul;111(1):5-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23806452
- Cardet JC, Castells MC, Hamilton MJ. Immunology and clinical manifestations of non-clonal mast cell activation syndrome. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2013 Feb;13(1):10-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23212667
- Picard M, Giavina-Bianchi P, Mezzano V, Castells M. Expanding spectrum of mast cell activation disorders: monoclonal and idiopathic mast cell activation syndromes. Clin Ther. 2013 May;35(5):548-62. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23642289
- Theoharides TC, Stewart JM. Antihistamines and Mental Status. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2016 Jun;36(3):195-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26974123
- Gray SL, Anderson ML, Dublin S, Hanlon JT, Hubbard R, Walker R, et al. Cumulative use of strong anticholinergics and incident dementia: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Mar;175(3):401-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25621434
- Pardanani A. Systemic mastocytosis in adults: 2015 update on diagnosis, risk stratification, and management. Am J Hematol. 2015 Mar;90(3):250-62. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25688753
- Verstovsek S. Advanced systemic mastocytosis: the impact of KIT mutations in diagnosis, treatment, and progression. Eur J Haematol. 2013 Feb;90(2):89-98. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23181448
- Ustun C, DeRemer DL, Akin C. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors in the treatment of systemic mastocytosis. Leuk Res. 2011 Sep;35(9):1143-52. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21641642
- Gotlib J, Kluin-Nelemans HC, George TI, Akin C, Sotlar K, Hermine O, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Midostaurin in Advanced Systemic Mastocytosis. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jun 30;374(26):2530-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27355533