A Canadian veterinarian’s controversial videos that promote a dog deworming medication as a cancer cure have been resurfaced on Facebook and TikTok. Sheila Singh, the director of McMaster’s Centre for Discovery in Cancer Research, says the claims are unfounded. In the videos, a former College of Veterinarians member from British Columbia named Andrew Jones promotes alternative medicine and advises people to take fenbendazole, which is not licensed for human use and can cause serious side effects.
The drug’s main anthelmintic effect is to inhibit tubulin, which forms the microtubules inside cells and acts as highways for transport. By collapsing tubulin, the drug starves parasites of their supply of nutrition, she explains. In cancer, the effect is similar: fenbendazole stops cells from growing and proliferating by blocking the formation of microtubules.
However, despite the lack of scientific evidence that fenbendazole is a cure for cancer, some patients are using it as an adjunct therapy. In a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, scientists interviewed a number of people who had used fenbendazole to treat their illness. Many said they had heard about the drug on social media, specifically TV and YouTube, or through acquaintances. Others reported hearing about it from family members or doctors.
In one interview, a lung cancer patient named J shared her story of taking fenbendazole to treat her lung cancer. She said she started using the drug after a friend told her about it. During her treatment, her tumors shrank and she felt better. However, her doctor said the tumors did not disappear and she had no clinical evidence of a benefit from fenbendazole.
Another patient in the study, K, also cited the Internet as a source of her information about the drug. She described watching videos on social media platforms and reading online articles. K’s doctor did not tell her that fenbendazole could be harmful and she ended up with severe side effects from the drug.
Researchers say it is important to educate patients about medically unproven self-treatments, such as alternative medicines and dietary supplements. Physicians should be aware of the types of information being disseminated through social media and discuss it with their patients.
The scientists behind the study, including Tara Williamson and Janet M. Cerutti, have intellectual property rights on mebendazole and have conflicts of interest with Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. They have submitted a patent application for the anti-cancer effects of mebendazole. They have been working to advance this research through human clinical trials and are seeking funding for this work. They acknowledge the assistance of the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Fund for Cancer Research. (Image credit: University of Toronto.. fenbendazole cancer