A common parasitic dewormer called fenbendazole may be the key to curing pancreatic cancer, a study finds. The drug, also known as Panacur, stops pancreatic cancer cells from relying on a process that recycles spent cell components and releases energy. That makes the cells starve and die.
The research is led by Dr. Jeremy Der, a cancer specialist at the Abramson Family Cancer Institute at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His team found that the drug blocks autophagy by inhibiting a specific protein involved in the process. It is the first time that this protein has been targeted with a drug to inhibit autophagy.
It’s the latest in a long line of research into combining drugs to treat pancreatic cancer, which is notoriously resistant to all conventional treatments and other newer immunotherapies. It’s also difficult to diagnose early, so most cases aren’t treated until the tumor has spread, when it is more likely to be fatal.
The MIT researchers worked with the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research to find pharmaceutical companies that have drugs in development to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. The team combined a PD-1 inhibitor, which blocks proteins that prevent T cells from attacking cancer cells, with a TIGIT inhibitor and a CD40 agonist antibody. The triple combination more than doubled survival in mice with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and the MIT team is now seeking to analyze which types of pancreatic cancer might respond best to this combination. It is planning to conduct a national clinical trial to test the drug strategy in patients with pancreatic cancer. fenbendazole for pancreatic cancer