Almost any pet owner who’s been told their dog has cancer feels two emotions simultaneously: anxiety for their beloved friend and hope that an effective treatment will be found. As pets live longer, they are increasingly at risk for developing the same kinds of cancers as people. But thanks to preventative health care and improved diagnostic tools, vets are finding new ways to treat dog cancer effectively.
One example of this is a dewormer. While the word “dewormer” might be associated with parasites, research in both dogs and humans suggests that a specific compound in these medications can also suppress certain types of cancer. This compound, fenbendazole (also known as albendazole or mebendazole) is available in several popular dog dewormers, including Safe Guard, Pro Sense, and Panacur. Several peer-reviewed studies have found that fenbendazole may be useful for treating human cancer, but the drug has not been approved by the FDA for this purpose.
In addition, the National Cancer Institute says there’s no proof fenbendazole cures cancer. However, the same study shows that fenbendazole can stop cancer cells from growing and spreading in laboratory animals by stopping their proper formation of microtubules, which provide structure to cell structures. Microtubules are important in both normal cells and cancerous ones. The drug has also been shown to reduce the growth of ovarian tumors in dogs.
Other veterinary cancer treatments include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These treatments are usually used when surgical removal of a tumor is not possible or if the tumor has spread to other organs and tissues. These treatment options can be highly effective and can improve a pet’s quality of life, but are not without risks. Chemotherapy can cause serious side effects, and radiation therapy can damage the bone marrow, liver, kidneys and lungs.
Increasingly, researchers are finding genetic links between various forms of cancer in both pets and people. This is leading to a new approach to treating cancer, where scientists are designing drugs that target genetic weaknesses in cancer cells. For example, a researcher named Michael vonderheide developed a drug that targets a protein called CD40, which is located on specialized immune cells that orchestrate overall immune responses by telling T cells — the “foot soldiers” of the immune system — what to attack.
Another area of promising research involves gene editing, which essentially alters the genes in a cell to make it less prone to developing into a cancer. This is being tested in several clinical trials and may be an effective way to improve the survival rate of people with cancer. dog dewormer cancer