Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive, deadly types of tumors. It’s resistant to almost all current treatment options, including chemotherapy and immunotherapies that prompt the body’s own T cells to attack the cancerous cells. New research, however, suggests that the anti-parasitic drug fenbendazole may be able to overcome that resistance.
The study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute’s Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network — a network of academic medical centers and industry partners that conduct early clinical trials of innovative therapies — found that the medication significantly reduced the growth of pancreatic cancer in genetically engineered mice. The research, published March 7 in the journal Gastroenterology, lends further support to a national clinical trial that will examine the use of the drug for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common type of malignant tumor in the pancreas.
Originally used to treat parasitic infections, such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and some tapeworms, the drug works by disrupting tubulin, which is both the micro-skeleton of the inner cell and a highway for transport. The researchers found that the drug also disrupted the structure of cancer cells, starving them to death.
The team’s research in mice showed that fenbendazole not only reactivated the p53 gene inside the cells but also induced DNA damage and hampered the movement of cancer cells, a process called chemotaxis. This effect was associated with the disruption of microtubules, stabilization of p53 and interference with glucose metabolism. fenbendazole for pancreatic cancer