Tapeworm Medicine Stops Prostate, Colon Cancer Cells from Growing, New Study Finds

Tapeworm Medicine Stops Prostate, Colon Cancer Cells from Growing, New Study Finds

A medicine that is commonly used against parasites like tapeworms contains a substance that stops prostate and colon cancer cells from growing, a new study found.

The substance, called nitazoxanide, decomposes a protein called beta-catenin, which is required for increased cancer cell proliferation and survival, and is often involved in resistance to cancer treatments.

The study, “Small molecule promotes β-catenin citrullination and inhibits Wnt signaling in cancer,” was published in Nature Chemical Biology.

Cancer cells often acquire new features that are not normally found in healthy cells, allowing them to proliferate without restrictions and to survive for longer periods. In some cancers, overactivation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is one of these features, making cancer cells two times more likely to develop resistance to treatment.

Now, researchers at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway found that the broad spectrum anti-parasitic and anti-viral drug nitazoxanide — which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2004 to treat diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium parvum or Giardia lambliais — can efficiently block the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, making it a potential anti-cancer drug.

“We discovered that this specific substance is blocking the signaling pathway in the cancer cells, and make them stop growing,” Karl-Henning Kalland, professor at the Department of Clinical Science at UiB, and author of the study, said in the university’s news release.

“It is not often that researchers discover a substance that targets specific molecules as precisely as this one,” he added.

After testing 460 approved drugs, the team found that nitazoxanide specifically inhibits the activity of the enzyme PAD2, which in turn would promote the degradation of activated β-catenin protein in cancer cells. The findings suggest that in addition to nitazoxanide’s well-known anti-parasitic properties, the drug may be able to treat cancers in which the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is overactivated.

“We are the first researchers who have mapped the complex molecular mechanisms involved in this process,” Kalland said.

Nitazoxanide is already known to be safe for humans, with no serious side effects associated to its use, “which means that a future treatment may happen quicker,” Kalland said.

While nitazoxanide affects cancer cells directly, it also appears to stimulate the immune system. The UiB research team is now evaluating how nitazoxanide affects the immune response against cancer cells.

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  1. Lawrence Glickman says:

    Thank you for publishing this article on nitazoxanide. As frequent readers may recognize I have many times posted on Prostate Cancer. By coincidence I contracted a parasite in Colombia South America and nitazoxanide was the preferred treatment there. As always I looked up the chemistry before taking it and saw the early research on its potential anti cancer properties. I have been taking it for over a year in small doses and the only side effect is that it will turn your urine a yellow color. This is not a problem for me as I am also on a diet and supplement program to prevent Prostate cancer which runs in my family and caused the death of my Father. My own theory on Prostate cancer is to disable and kill the cancer cells from more than one angle to prevent adaptation. There are many proven supplements like boron and now nitazoxanide that can be of great help.

    • Tom Fontana says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment Mr Glickman about nitazoxanide. I am curious as to the dosage you take. You indicate small doses for over a year and wondered what that consists of? I’ve looked up the dosage for it’s intended use (Cryptosporidiosis) and it’s 500mg with food twice daily for 3 days.

      Thanks again.

    • Alice Melão says:

      Dear Donna, It is not fully known the therapeutic potential of this drug to treat cancer. This study only showed that the drug can block cellular signals that are known to promote prostate and other cancers. Additional studies are still needed to give a more suitable answer to your question.

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