UPDATE: A De-Wormer for Cancer Revisited

Updated: Feb 15

Back in 2019, I learned of people taking a veterinary medicine known as fenbendazole to treat cancer.

At that time, I hadn’t heard of this, but I had several people tell me that had heard of a man who had cured his cancer by using this medicine. Intrigued, I looked into it and what I found surprised me.

I learned that researchers had been studying fenbendazole’s cancer fighting activity since at least 2005. Around 2005 a lab found it impossible to implant cancer cells onto laboratory animals. After analyzing the situation, it was determined that the animals had been treated with fenbendazole to eliminate parasites, and in doing so, had made them resistant to cancer cells.

Shortly after that, fenbendazole and it’s medicine-cousin for human-use, mebendazole, appeared in several published papers describing their anti-cancer actions. These -azole drugs have a similar mechanism as one of the most powerful types of chemotherapy drugs, the taxanes.

The taxanes inhibit cancer cell replication by interfering with DNA replication. Azole drugs exhibit this activity as well, but without the toxicity. Additionally, the -azole drugs can also upregulate a specific gene called the p53 gene that is responsible for inhibiting the growth and development of melanoma and breast cancer cells. Studies also showed promise in fighting other types of cancer cells as well including glioblastoma multiforme, prostate cancer, and lymphoma.

The most exciting research I found back in 2019 regarding the -azole drugs involved a specific type of lung cancer known as KRAS mutated non-small cancer lung cancer (NSCLC). Mutation of the KRAS gene promoted a more aggressive form of lung cancer. About 30% of NSCLC’s have this mutation of KRAS and there are few, if any, reliable treatments for these cancers. The study published by the National Cancer Institute of Japan concluded that “benzimidazole derivatives play an important role in suppressing KRAS-mutant lung cancer cells.” You can read my original write up here.

Since 2019, several more articles of medical research have been published regarding fenbendazole and mebendazole. A study from January 2021 reported that mebendazole inhibited the growth of ovarian cancer cells in both cell cultures as well as in laboratory animals implanted with human cancer cells. An additional study from July 2021 reported that mebendazole could re-sensitize chemotherapy resistant ovarian cancer cells to treatment. Both of these studies suggested that mebendazole should receive continued study to further characterize it’s possible use in ovarian cancer.

Several other studies described the safety and anti-cancer effects of the -azole drugs. Another particular study that caught my eye involved an -azole drug called flubendazole and castration resistant prostate cancer. The drug was found to suppress cancer cell growth and to synergize with conventional treatment of this difficult to treat prostate cancer.

While the use of these medications is far from being standard of care, I am hopeful that additional research about the -azole drugs will continue to provide useful information about their potential use in clinical care.

This idea of using a drug for purposes other than it’s intended use is called “drug repurposing” and is a hot topic in medical literature. Several non-cancer drugs have been found to have significant anti-cancer action. These include the diabetic drug metformin, the lipid-lowering statin drugs, antibiotics such as doxycycline, the anti-malaria drug artesunate, and the thyroid medication tetrathiomolybdate. The anti-cancer action of some of these drugs is significant.

I am hopeful that more research and clinical experience will provide more direction on the potential of drug repurposing. I’ll keep you posted.

Jake Psenka, ND

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