Research News

Common tapeworm drug proven to treat prostate and colon cancers

December, 2017    |

In a new study published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway reveal that a drug commonly used to treat parasites may be used in the fight against prostate and colon cancer.

The group of researchers has been testing hundreds of existing drugs to see what effect they have on cancer cells.  Their research shows that a well-known and approved anti-parasite drug, nitazoxanide (NTZ), breaks down the beta-catenin protein, which is found at high levels in prostate and colon cancer cells. The activation of this protein causes cancer cells to proliferate at an extreme rate and allows cancer cells to thrive, making them more resistant to treatment.

NTZ, which is used to treat Giardia, tapeworm and other parasites, attacks beta-catenin proteins to prohibit their growth and decompose the activated proteins. NTZ also appears to stimulate central parts of the immune system, that then attack cancer cells.

The leader of the research study, Professor Karl-Henning Kalland at the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen notes, “We discovered that this specific substance is blocking the signalling pathway in the cancer cells, and makes them stop growing. It is not often that researchers discover a substance that targets specific molecules as precisely as this one.”

He also explains, “The advantage of testing already approved drugs is that we know they work in the human body and have no serious side effects, which means that a future treatment may happen quicker.”

This is very promising news for the thousands of Canadians suffering from prostate and colon cancer and doctors who treat these types of cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that in 2017,

  • 21,300 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. This represents 21% of all new cancer cases in men in 2017.
  • 4,100 men will die from prostate cancer. This represents 10% of all cancer deaths in men in 2017.
  • On average, 58 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every day.
  • On average, 11 Canadian men will die from prostate cancer every day.

They also estimate that,

  • 26,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. This represents 13% of all new cancer cases in 2017.
  • 9,400 Canadians will die from colorectal cancer. This represents 12% of all cancer deaths in 2017.
  • 14,900 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 5,100 will die from it.
  • 11,900 women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 4,300 will die from it.
  • On average, 73 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer every day.
  • On average, 26 Canadians will die from colorectal cancer every day.

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