New research published in the online journal BMC Cancer indicates that a common anti-parasite medication suppresses two key growth factors involved in new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in cancerous tumors. The drug, albendazole, marketed as Albenza, Eskazole, Zentel and Andazol, is used to treat a variety of worm infestations, including human and animal tapeworms and roundworms.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, Australia, found that mice with ovarian tumors treated with albendazole had significant reductions in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and hypoxia inducible factor (HIF-1). VEGF and HIF-1 play key roles in initiating and maintaining tumor angiogenesis across many cancer types, and are thus attractive targets for antiangiogenic therapy. HIF-1 in particular is thought to be involved in tumor invasion and spread to distant organs.

In the study, a single dose of albendazole (150 mg/kg) dramatically suppressed tumor levels of both VEGF and HIF-1 compared to a sham treatment. In theory, dual suppression of VEGF and HIF-1 could target both tumor angiogenesis and inhibit tumors’ ability to invade and spread to other tissues and organs.