Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Mast Cells and Luteolin in Cancer Treatment, Part 1

Here’s a post I have been promising for a while now.  Let’s look at Luteolin, a practically anonymous, food-derived agent with numerous possible uses in cancer treatment.

Nobody has heard of Luteolin.  That is because the research being done in its potential anti-cancer application is really new.

What is it anyway? Luteolin is a bioflavonoid that is found in artichokes, peanut hulls, green pepper, chrysanthemums, citrus, and many other natural plant sources.

Here is one of the cool things Luteolin is capable of: mast cell stabilization.

Whoa…   mast cells?  Some dog lovers have heard of mast cell tumors, or may even be dealing with this diagnosis in their loved canine companion.   Mast cells, when doing normal things, secrete chemical signals that are involved in some kinds of inflammation.

Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s defense system. However, like most things in excess, more is not better.

When mast cells in the body secrete too much of their chemical signals, the outcome is redness, swelling, itching and burning.  You get allergic reactions, excessive stomach acid secretion, dilated blood vessels, elevated heart rate, shock, and sometimes even death.

In dog cancer care, we deal with tumors made out of cancerous mast cells. These cells maintain their ability to send out these noxious chemical signals.  Dogs with severe mast cell tumor burdens have things like excessive stomach acid, inflammation in the skin, and physical discomfort due to the nastiness of the excessive histamine, heparin, and substance P released by mast cells.

Here comes the good stuff: Luteolin, very potently, is capable of suppressing the release of these chemicals.  Read more here and here.

But why not just give Benadryl or cimetidine to block these effects? Why not reach for these common meds without pause?

Well, luteolin has some very nice anti-inflammatory effects, and some good potential anticancer effects, which we will go into in next time…so stay tuned…..


Dr Dressler

About the Author: Demian Dressler, DVM

Dr. Demian Dressler, DVM is known as the "dog cancer vet" and is author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog's Life Quality and Longevity.

  • James

    This is a very interesting article. Keep it up. I love reading your blog.

    • Joanne

      Dear Dr. Dressler,
      I have a german shepherd/border collie mix (Cassie). She has been diagnosed with a mast cell tumor on her back leg near where the hock and thigh meet. It is inoperable because the vet cannot get the margins and she will be greatly disfigured. Also we did X-rays and two spots showed up – one on bottom of spleen and one somewhere near the lymph node near her lungs. I am going to have an aspirate done of the one on the spleen.
      As removal is not possible what protocol would you suggest for my dog. The vets that I go to are great but they don’t seem to know too much. Suggested amputation which is out of the question. My dog is seven years old and not in any pain that we can see. Weight is stable, appetite good, personality still the same. I know that this is not indication of her health but I do need help in deciding what steps to take. When she is in pain we will then have to think about putting her down but for now we would at least like to try and stabilize her. Thank you for your time.

      • Dr. Dressler

        Joanne, see my other comment, thanks!

    • Dr. Dressler

      why thank you!

  • http://www.rawrecovery.co.uk Natalie

    Dr. Dressler,

    My little 10 year old dog has a mast cell tumour, it swells up hours after she eats any form of protein, why is that? It’s very frustrating as I want the swelling to go down, so I can use black salve, but am scared of all the histiame she may lose when the black salve penetrates the skin. She needs protein but am cornered what can you suggest??? I was also thinking of giving her black salve capsule just a lentil dosage in a capsule, one per day and there is also a tonic111 to give.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks so much for all you help.


  • moonlightshines

    Its worth taking salvestrols for dog cancer because this is high in Luteolin

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  • Joanne

    Dear Dr. Dressler,
    I have just received notification from our vet that the tumor has been graded as a Stage I mast cell tumor. This may also help in your evaluation. Hope to hear from you soon.

  • Pierre Thorn

    My dog has a tumor growing exponential. Aspirate was indeterminate, but seems to itch and would say is mast cell. I have an appointment with the oncologist Tuesday (Today is Saturday) Seeing it is growing so fast(looks like outside its original margins) should I go to emergency or wait till Tuesday? Can I give her Benadryl for the itching? Any response appreciated!


  • Dr. Dressler

    Pierre, there is no benefit in delaying treatment or further diagnosis. Get the dog to a vet.
    Good luck

  • Erika

    “Nobody has heard of Luteolin.” No kidding — my health food store clerk, in a major urban area, had to scratch his head and ask the computer, then offered to sell me parsley capsules. Since my dog is perfectly happy to eat both parsley and green pepper, we didn’t bother.

    Do you have any advice or a link to research on how MUCH parsley and green pepper we might be wanting? She’s a little over sixty pounds and has a soft-tissue sarcoma which has spread to her lungs. We’re also using ginger, just added echinacea, and have been doing large doses of Asian mushrooms in capsule form since last May, plus Deramaxx with alternations to prednisone for swelling. (Generally 5 days of one, 2-3 days of the other in low dose, with buffering.) Quality of life is still good; she still eats, plays, and sleeps comfortably. None of her vets can quite believe it.

  • Dr. Dressler

    Yep, but it is good stuff. I’ve got the doses in the upcoming e-book on the parsley and whatnot. As usual, clear everything with your vet before doing it…discuss Lutimax, a commercial source of Luteolin, made by SynoRx and available on-line.

  • Shirley

    Dear Dr. Dressler,
    The ultrasound done on our Lucy came back with very good results, all organs looking clear and normal, we are still waiting on a biopsy on a small mass but at this time it very well could be nothing more than a injection site reaction as you could see what looked like the antibotics still in a ball looking like toothpaste, those results are due back anyday now. Lucy has healed well from her tail amputation (site of the Mast Cell,Grade 2) and spay surgery a month ago and is feeling good and eating well. I do have a question though, have you heard of or know of a new treatment for Mast Cell called Masitinib developed by AB Science. My very good friend and also a vet tech just got back from the Eastern Vet Conference in Orlando last week and a Dr. Rusk gave a talk on it, I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on this very new treatment? Also if you have any information on a product made by Maitake Products by the name of Petfraction, it is for immune support and also tumor control in dogs and humans. Lucy is currently taking K9 Immunity and K9 Transfer Factor plus heavy amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids so far she is loving everything. Thank you so much Dr. Dressler for your care and concern for our furkids. Also I am eagarly awaiting your new book to arrive. Best Regards, Shirley

  • LisaT

    Just tripped over your site — a wealth of information! My girl has had a mast cell tumor, and another growth now that is suspicious that will be checked out this week. She has an immune-complex disorder, and the mdr1 genetic mutation, so I have to be very careful of the supplements that I use with her.

    I have been using bioflavanoids since her last tumor was removed (17 months ago), but it looks like I need to add a flavanoid. I found this article for more info too: http://tinyurl.com/cz4bh6

  • Kris

    Hi, Dr. Dressler:

    I have started my dog (who has had cancerous mast cell tumors surgically removed twice & now has more popping up) on Lutimax, parsley, Benedryl, celery juice, spirulina, vitamins, & k-9 Immunity. (No conventional treatments are being used at this time.) Someone told me about this “black salve” that people have used on themselves and animals for skin cancer. What is your opinion about “black salve,” which I have also heard called “Compound X”? My concern is that it could cause the cancer to spread as it destroys the tumor. It seems potentially “messy,” in terms of clean margins, etc. Thanks.

  • Dr. Dressler

    be ready for an opening in your dog’s tissue, where the tumor was, after application of the black salve and dying off of the tumor. Also, mast cell tumors can release a bunch of histamine during this so you should be very cautious. It can be quite out of control IF the mass is big or has penetrated into the surrounding tissue. This leaves a big slough of tissue that is wide open (if there are a lot of tumor cells) after the tumor dies off and you may not see how extensive the area is before applying the salve as tumor cells are not always visible. Of course for itty bitty tumors it can be good and convenient, but…be very cautious….get your vet involved if you are planning on using this!

  • Kris

    Hi, Dr. Dressler:
    I’ve got a lot of parsley growing…do you have any suggestions regarding tablespoons/dog’s weight? Thanks!

  • http://DogCancerBlog.com DemianDressler

    Dear Kris,
    unfortunately the amount of luteolin found in parsley would mean that a dog would have to eat huge amounts that are extremely difficult to eat. For this reason, I included it in the formula for Apocaps, which I designed for my patients. This way we don’t have to have our dogs eat huge amounts of parsely!