Fenbendazole for Pancreatic Cancer

Despite the best efforts of doctors, scientists haven’t yet found a way to reliably treat pancreatic cancer. This deadly disease has a very low survival rate. But a new study suggests that the anti-parasitic drug mebendazole may help. The study was published March 7 in the journal Gastroenterology. Gregory Riggins, a professor of neurosurgery and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led the research.

In his team’s lab experiments, he found that mebendazole, which is known to prevent parasitic infections in humans (common brands include Pancur and Safe-Guard), interferes with the formation of microtubules, a protein scaffold that gives cells their shape and structure. Textbook depictions of cells often show them floating in amorphous bags of liquid, but in fact, they establish their structure and shape through the cytoskeleton, which is made up of microtubules.

The researchers tested the drug’s effectiveness in human pancreatic cancer cell lines—AsPC-1, which has mutations in both KRAS and p53, and Capan-2, which is wild type in both genes. The drugs were given alone or in combination, and the effect of each drug on the cytoskeleton was measured. Using a computer program, they determined whether the drugs had synergistic or antagonistic effects.

They also examined how the drugs interacted with gemcitabine, a drug that is currently used to treat pancreatic cancer. The drug is given by mouth, usually in a pill form, and works by inhibiting the growth of tumor cells. The researchers found that mebendazole and gemcitabine together had synergistic effects in both KRAS mutant and wild-type cells. They are now planning a national clinical trial to evaluate the strategy in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. fenbendazole for pancreatic cancer

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