A video circulating on TikTok and Facebook shows a veterinarian promoting a dog deworming drug as a cancer cure for humans. The drugs in question, anthelmintics, have been approved by the FDA to treat parasites in pets and livestock. Peer-reviewed studies are examining this class of pharmaceuticals as potential cancer treatments, but it’s not yet proven that they work in humans. Sheila Singh, director of McMaster’s Centre for Discovery in Cancer Research, says the claim is false and dangerous.
The video features Andrew Jones, a veterinarian who runs a YouTube channel where he shares his views on a range of topics. In this case, he’s sharing the story of Joe Tippens, a cancer patient who claimed taking fenbendazole caused his small-cell lung cancer to disappear. The clip has over 61,000 views as of this writing.
Tippens’ story was publicized in 2019, after which he reportedly died of complications from his cancer. There is no evidence that fenbendazole was the cause of his remission, and other causes like conventional cancer treatments can’t be ruled out either. But that didn’t stop the fenbendazole-for-cancer movement from gaining momentum on social media.
A post on the non-profit organization Cancer Research UK’s Full Fact blog said there is “insufficient evidence that fenbendazole can cure cancer.” It went on to say that the drug doesn’t kill cancer cells and only makes them “lay dormant/sleep untill [sic] they are ready to wake back up.”
This post also pointed out that while the chemical structure of fenbendazole resembles that of compounds known to act as radiosensitizers, it hasn’t been tested in conjunction with radiation. The researchers did find that 2-h incubation of EMT6 cells with high doses of fenbendazole significantly reduced their clonogenicity and yield-corrected survival fraction, indicating that the drug had both cytotoxic and cytostatic effects on the cancer cells.
The authors went on to report that higher dosages of fenbendazole were found to decrease the ability of EMT6 cells to grow and reproduce, suggesting a mechanism through which this antiparasitic drug could potentially enhance the effectiveness of certain types of radiation. The data were in agreement with previous results from other preclinical studies examining this class of drugs as radiosensitizers.
In another study, published in 2021 in Scientific Reports, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine found that mebendazole, an antiparasitic drug similar to fenbendazole, can slow down pancreatic cancer progression in mice. However, the authors of the 2021 study noted that their findings don’t prove that mebendazole can be used to treat human pancreatic cancer and further clinical studies will need to be carried out.
In short, while some cell and animal studies show promise, we won’t know if a treatment will actually help people with their disease unless it goes through rigorous testing in people. And that includes randomized, controlled trials involving multiple patients to determine whether or not the treatment is safe and effective. We reached out to a specialist cancer information nurse at Cancer Research UK and were told that there isn’t enough evidence yet that fenbendazole can indeed cure cancer. fenbendazole for humans cancer