For those of you who aren’t familiar, dog dewormer for cancer refers to a regimen that Joe Tippens, a melanoma patient, claims has saved his life. The protocol involves fenbendazole, a common deworming medication for dogs sold under the brand names Safe Guard and Panacur.
The claim gained steam after a portion of a video was reposted on TikTok and Facebook, which claimed that fenbendazole, an anthelmintic used to treat parasites in animals, cures human cancer. According to Sheila Singh, director of McMaster’s Centre for Discovery in Cancer Research, this is untrue. While some preclinical studies are examining this class of drugs as potential anti-cancer treatments, they have yet to be proven effective in humans.
What’s more, fenbendazole is not approved for human use. In fact, the drug has a reputation for being dangerous when overdosed or misused. Moreover, if taken for long periods of time, it can cause neurological damage.
However, there are anecdotal reports of people using fenbendazole to treat their own or loved one’s cancer, prompting some to consider the treatment as a potential alternative to traditional cancer treatments. But what if the claims are true?
Before checkpoint inhibitors and CAR T cell immunotherapies gained traction, the field of cancer immunotherapy began with a similar story. In 1999, Jedd Wolchok, chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, received support from the cancer institute to investigate a vaccine for melanoma, which he planned to develop by targeting a receptor called CD40. This receptor is found on specialized immune cells that orchestrate overall immune responses by telling T cells, the foot soldiers of the immune system, what to attack.