A broad-spectrum antiparasitic drug used in veterinary medicine for years is also a potential new therapy against cancer, according to researchers. They have found that fenbendazole, which is a member of the benzimidazole family of drugs, inhibits microtubule formation and triggers cell death in colorectal cancer cells and human patient-derived colon cancer organoids. The findings are reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
The discovery could be the first step in using fenbendazole as an alternative or supplemental treatment for some types of cancer, Stanford researchers said. It also suggests that other benzimidazole drugs may have similarly effective anti-cancer effects. The work was led by Cory Brayton, a professor of medicine at Stanford. It was performed in collaboration with scientists at the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Pancreatic Cancer and other institutions.
Brayton and his colleagues studied colorectal cancer cells (SNU-C5 and SNU-C5/5-FUR), which have a KRAS mutation, a common mutation found in lung and colon cancers. The researchers found that fenbendazole inhibited cell proliferation, in part by blocking tubulin’s function as a building block of the cytoskeleton. Microtubules are structures that give shape to cells and help cellular components move around. The researchers found that fenbendazole triggered apoptosis in the cancer cells by disrupting the cytoskeleton and cutting off the supply of nutrients to the cells. In addition, fenbendazole caused the loss of the protein GPX4, which is necessary for autophagy and ferroptosis.
In a series of experiments, the researchers tested how fenbendazole affected apoptosis in the cancers cells and whether the apoptosis was linked to the KRAS mutation. They found that fenbendazole induces mitochondrial injury and caspase-3-dependent apoptosis in both SNU-C5 and SNU-C5/5-FUR cells. Moreover, they found that fenbendazole causes the loss of GPX4 in the cancer cells and inhibits p53 activation. The team also examined whether fenbendazole triggers necroptosis in the cells. They found that fenbendazole caused the expression of proteins involved in necroptosis, including RIP-mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein, phosphatidylserine kinase, RIP3, and MLKL to be significantly reduced.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. Posted on Feb 22 by Darren Glenn, Stanford News
Recent social media posts and TikTok videos have claimed that a common dog deworming medication called fenbendazole cures some forms of cancer in humans. These claims have not been proven, and doctors should not recommend that patients self-administer any type of medication unless it is prescribed by their physicians.
Despite its wide use in the veterinary field to treat parasitic worms, fenbendazole has no FDA approval for the treatment of humans. Moreover, social media platforms allow nonmedical individuals to spread complex medical information widely and quickly. This makes it difficult for physicians to filter and verify accurate information. Physicians should enquire about any patients seeking self-administered medications, particularly dietary supplements or herbs, and inform them of the evidence regarding the safety of these products. The patient in this case report is an exception, but she did have a rare tumor type that was responsive to the anthelmintic. fenbendazole for cancer