The anti-parasitic drug fenben for humans (also known as panacur and albendazole) has shown moderate MT depolymerizing activity in human cancer cell lines, but it has been little studied for its potential as an anti-cancer agent.
Researchers found that fenbendazole (FZ) inhibits the growth of both human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells H460 and A549 and induces apoptosis in both cell types. The anti-cancer effects of FZ were mediated by microtubule disrupting, p53 activation and the modulation of genes involved in multiple cellular pathways. Moreover, FZ treatment resulted in reduced glucose uptake in cancer cells due to down regulation of the expression of GLUT transporters and the key glycolytic enzyme hexokinase II.
Scientists believe that the multiple cellular effects of FZ could explain its anti-cancer efficacy, which is reminiscent of multi-target drugs. These multi-targeted drugs have been shown to have improved efficacy compared to single-target drugs, and they can circumvent the development of resistance by targeting multiple cellular processes simultaneously.
The anti-cancer efficacy of FZ was tested in vivo by feeding female athymic nu/nu mice with A549 xenograft tumours and administering oral doses of FZ every second day for 12 days. At the end of the study, tumours were excised, measured and weighed and the results showed that the FZ treatment significantly reduced tumour size and weight. In addition, a reduction in tumor vascularity was observed by spectrophotometric measurement of hemoglobin content in the tumors. This is an indication of decreased blood flow to the tumour and reduced nutrient supply for growth.