In the news: Sheila Singh debunks deworming drug as cancer cure

A container of Panacur C canine dewormer

A container of fenbendazol, a deworming medicine used to treat intestinal parasites in dogs.

An unlicensed veterinarian’s videos, which tout a dog deworming medicine as a cure for human cancer, have been debunked by Sheila Singh, director of McMaster’s Centre for Discovery in Cancer Research.

In the clips, Andrew Jones, a veterinarian from British Columbia tells the story of a patient who claimed taking fenbendazole cured his small-cell lung cancer. The videos were originally posted in 2019 but have received new attention after being reposted on Facebook and TikTok in February 2023.

A screenshot of a TikTok video showing a man in scrubs, a picture of a man holding a small child and a chest X-ray
A video touting fenbendazole as a cancer treatment posted to TikTok. Screenshot taken May 1, 2023

Jones resigned from the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia in 2010 after being reprimanded for promoting alternative medicines for animals.

While anthelmintics, the class of drugs used to treat parasites in animals, are being studied as potential cancer treatments, no peer-reviewed study has found evidence to confirm they could cure cancer in humans.

“Seeing promising data in a dish of cancer cells is the beginning,” Singh told AFP in an interview. “But to say that something could cure cancer is simply unscientific, because there’s no data that backs up that claim whatsoever.”

Health Canada lists all fenbendazole products for veterinary use only and not for use in humans but research into the class of medications is ongoing. A 2020 study by researchers at Seoul National University found animal anthelmintics could have anti-cancer effects but evidence is still inconclusive.

Singh told AFP there are some similarities between parasitic behavior and cancer cells that indicate antiparasitic medications could make an effective cancer treatment. Two drugs in the class have entered trials but turning testing results into an approved drug is a long journey.

“The drug is still experimental the entire time. From the lab, from the preclinical models, all the way to the end, that drug is still not proven.”

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