Anti-Worm Drug, Flubendazole Can Be Repurposed As A Treatment For Melanoma Cancer Pending Human Trials
A drug that has been used for over 40 years to treat worm infections in humans and animals has been discovered by researchers from the University Of New South Wales to be able to inhibit melanoma growth in animal models.
The widely available OTC drug called anthelmintic or flubendazole, inhibits growth and metastasis of human tumors grown in animal models in a three year study involving collaboration between researchers at UNSW and in the United States.
"The team was surprised to discover that flubendazole's anti-tumor effects involve its inhibition of a cell surface protein called programmed cell death protein-1 or PD-1.When PD-1 is bound to another protein called PD-L1, it helps stop the immune system from killing cancer cells. PD-1 suppression releases the brakes on the immune system and allows it to find and destroy tumors."said lead author of the study Professor Levon Khachigian in a phone interview with Thailand Medical News.
Treatment protocols for melanoma has changed in recent years, with improvements in immunotherapy and the introduction of PD-1 inhibitors.However, at the moment, all clinically available PD-1 inhibitors are antibodies, requiring patients to undergo intravenous infusion, typically once every 3 weeks. Unfortunately, significant challenges remain: many patients do not respond to existing PD-1 inhibitors or the response is not sustained.No small molecule alternatives to antibody-based checkpoint inhibitors are available, although a number are under development and one is currently being tested in clinical trials.
The research shows that in animal models, flubendazole is a novel small molecule inhibitor of PD-1. Professor Khachigian said, "Patients on small molecule PD-1 inhibitors could potentially be dosed as outpatients, meaning greater convenience, avoidance of intravenous administration and cost savings for chemotherapy units."
Whilst flubendazole is an old drug, its use as a treatment for melanoma has not yet been tested in human trials. There is no regulatory approval for use of flubendazole for cancer patients, and thus it is not available for this indication. Patients should continue seeking the advice of their oncologists until further clinical trials and regulatory measures allows it to be repurposed for melanoma.