Fenbendazole (brand names include Pancur and Safe-Guard) is a medication used to treat parasites and worms in dogs. Recently, fenbendazole has become popular in the health world as an alternative cancer treatment due to a series of videos posted on TikTok by Joe Tippens, who claimed that taking fenbendazole cured his terminal lung cancer. Although fenbendazole has been shown to reduce the spread of tumors in mice models, it does not affect radiation-induced growth of human cancer cells.
The fenbendazole cancer controversy highlights the need to develop communication strategies that enable patients to obtain evidence-based information in cases where an unconventional medicine gains popularity among the public. This article presents the results of a focus group interview with 21 lung cancer patients to examine their acquisition channels, quality, and perceptions of false information regarding fenbendazole cancer.
The interviewees were recruited from patients who visited a cancer center in the city of Seoul. All of the participants were in stages one through four of their lung cancer and were being treated at the hospital. They were informed of the purpose of the study and gave their consent to participate in the interview. The interviews were conducted from December 7 to 8, 2020, and lasted 1.5 h each.
In the first segment, participants were asked about the source of their fenbendazole cancer information. The majority of the participants reported getting the information from TV and acquaintances or family members. The next segments examined the accuracy of the fenbendazole cancer information that they received. Finally, the last segment examined the perceptions of the participants toward the fenbendazole cancerinformation that they had obtained.
To assess the cytotoxic effect of fenbendazole, a tumor cell line, A549, was exposed to increasing concentrations of fenbendazole. The A549 cells were then irradiated with 10 Gy using a Siemens Stabilipan X-ray machine. A control group was irradiated without fenbendazole. The cell viability and clonogenicity of the A549 cells were then assessed. No changes in cell viability or clonogenicity were observed at a fenbendazole concentration that was less than the toxic concentration of fenbendazole for the A549 cells.
The unlicensed veterinarian Andrew Jones, who was debunked by Sheila Singh of McMaster University, filmed videos that promoted his dog deworming medicine as a cancer cure for humans. He has since been banned from practicing as a veterinarian. In the videos, Jones claims that his fenbendazole treatment cured his cancer and suggests that others can achieve the same result by following his method. The videos were uploaded to TikTok in 2019 and were reposted in 2023, causing a national sensation in South Korea. Despite the debunking of these videos, many people in South Korea are still consuming fenbendazole cancer, even though this has not been proven as an effective treatment for human cancers.