Fenbendazole is an antiparasitic drug that’s also used to treat certain cancers. A study published in 2018 in Scientific Reports found that fenbendazole could block cancer growth and induce cell death in colorectal cancer cells growing in the lab (in vitro). The same research team also found that mebendazole, another antiparasitic drug similar to fenbendazole, could prevent pancreatic cancer progression in mice. And benzimidazole carbamate drugs, which belong to the same family as fenbendazole, are known to bind beta-tubulin and disrupt microtubules, inhibiting cell division.
Other studies have shown that fenbendazole kills tumor cells by blocking signaling pathways in the cells, which leads to cell death. It can also bind to and degrade the DNA of tumor cells, preventing them from reproducing. It’s also been found to be effective in killing ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancer cells in lab tests.
This research team wanted to investigate fenbendazole’s effects on autophagy, ferroptosis, and necroptosis in colorectal cancer cells. They first treated cells with fenbendazole, and then measured their protein expression levels using immunoblotting. The results showed that fenbendazole induces autophagy by increasing Beclin-1 expression and decreases LC3-I, Atg7, and active caspase-8 in SNU-C5 and SNU-C5/5-FUR cells.
In addition, fenbendazole reduces cell viability in both SNU-C5 and SNU-C5/5-FUR cancer cells. This was due to increased permeability of the cells and reduced mitochondrial activity. Furthermore, fenbendazole suppresses the expression of glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) in SNU-C5 and SNU-C5/5-FUR cell lines, which causes ferroptosis in those cells. Ferroptosis is a form of cell death characterized by lipid peroxidation. fenbendazole cancer