Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of the disease. In the United States, fewer than 10 percent of patients survive more than five years after diagnosis. Even when it’s diagnosed early, the tumors are often resistant to chemotherapy and other conventional treatments. Researchers are searching for new ways to treat these tumors, including a strategy that uses one drug to get the cancer cells to depend on a single source of energy, and another drug to take it away from them.
Scientists have found that fenbendazole, an anthelmintic drug that is used to treat parasitic infections in animals, has anti-cancer effects in animal models. The drug works by interfering with the formation of microtubules, a protein scaffolding that gives cells their shape and helps them move around. Textbook depictions of cells commonly portray what look like various cellular components floating in amorphous bags of liquid, but these organelles establish their shape and structure through the cytoskeleton, which is largely made up of microtubules.
The team tested fenbendazole, as well as other drugs in the same family (mebendazole and oxibendazole), against pancreatic cancer cell lines in the lab. They found that the drugs significantly inhibited the viability of the cancer cells, causing them to shrink or die. They also found that combining mebendazole with gemcitabine, an existing drug for pancreatic cancer, synergistically affected cell viability.
While the study was promising, it’s too early to say that fenbendazole can cure pancreatic cancer. The drug hasn’t been tested in clinical trials in humans and hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat cancer. Patients with pancreatic cancer should continue to see their doctor and consider joining a clinical trial. fenbendazole for pancreatic cancer