New Hope for Gastric and Colon Cancer Patients?

By: Tom Siegenthaler, DPh, RPh, FACA

Gastric cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the third highest lethal cancer of all cancers worldwide.  Two thirds of gastric cancer patients have advanced or metastatic disease at time of discovery.  Most often patients do not have a lot of symptoms.  There have been modest improvements in therapy, but even after surgery the outcome is often bleak.  The approximate survival rate for 5 years is only 20%.  

Because of this poor treatment success, studies have looked at other options to treat these types of cancers in patients.  An old drug called Mebendazole (MBZ) has received a lot of attention in medical studies.  Mebendazole is a drug that has been used for over 45 years in humans and has a long track record of being relatively safe with no harmful or toxic effects to normal cells.  MBZ works by disrupting a part of cancer cells that is responsible for their growth, while not harming healthy cells. 

Clinical studies have shown that Mebendazole inhibits the proliferation of gastric cancer cells, disrupts the microtubule structure of gastric cancer cells, suppresses the invasion and growth characteristics of gastric cancer.  Most of the recent new drugs to treat gastric cancers produce modest benefits in solid tumors.  Score data has revealed that 80% of the colon cancer cell lines are sensitive to MBZ.

One study was published on a patient with refractory metastatic colon cancer, and after six weeks of therapy showed near compete remission of cancer in the lungs, lymph nodes and a partial remission of the liver.

In conclusion, Mebendazole should not be looked at as a “panacea” or cure all, BUT for patients who have been given a very poor outlook- it could be worth a trial.  MBZ has no known long term side effects. 

There are some special considerations in dosing for this off label use of this drug to treat cancers.

Please call the pharmacy with any questions.

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