The recent “fenbendazole stage 4 cancer” scandal has raised the issue of how to communicate evidence-based information in a social media environment. As health authorities are expected to be the main communicators of medical information, it is important that they have a systematic communication system that can promptly deliver evidence-based knowledge when false information spreads. This study aims to examine the characteristics of the communication process between health authorities and the public for evidence-based news that is highly controversial.

Fenbendazole (methyl N-(6-phenylsulfanyl-1H-benzimidazol-2-yl) carbamate) is a broad-spectrum benzimidazole anthelmintic approved for use in numerous animal species. It exhibits a moderate microtubule depolymerizing activity and possesses potent antitumor effects as evident from in vitro and in vivo experiments. It is also an effective hepatoprotective agent against liver damage. Therefore, repurposing veterinary drugs with promising biological activities as anticancer agents is an attractive strategy to reduce the time and costs required to develop new compounds.

In order to evaluate whether fenbendazole might be a useful radiosensitizer, EMT6 cells were cultured in hypoxic or aerobic conditions and treated with graded doses of radiation either a few seconds before or 22 h after the addition of 10 mM fenbendazole. Cell survival was assessed by colony formation assay and data were analyzed using a two-way ANOVA. Results showed that fenbendazole did not alter the radiation dose-response curves of hypoxic or aerobic cells (Table).

Since inhibition of tubulin polymerization blocks cell-cycle progression, it is possible that fenbendazole might exert its anticancer effect by blocking mitosis and thereby inducing cellular catastrophe. To test this, A549 cells were synchronized by serum starvation and then treated with different concentrations of fenbendazole for varying time intervals. The results indicated that fenbendazole significantly blocked mitosis and the cell cycle progression at all concentrations tested.

The results indicate that fenbendazole might be used as an effective radiosensitizer in combination with other anticancer agents such as the taxanes. Since the chemical structure of fenbendazole resembles that of hypoxia-selective nitroheterocyclic cytotoxins and radiosensitizers, this is an encouraging result.

The participants in this study were lung cancer patients who were in stages one to four of their disease. We conducted semi-structured interviews with these patients to explore where they get general cancer and fenbendazole-related information daily, what they think of this information, and their perceptions and attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine. Our findings revealed that most patients obtain information about fenbendazole and cancer through the Internet and YouTube and that they have a negative attitude toward this type of information because they believe it needs to be verified by experts and filtered according to their arbitrary criteria. This information is not being adequately conveyed to patients by healthcare professionals. It is necessary to strengthen the communication between doctors and patients in order to prevent misinformation from spreading and causing unnecessary stress and anxiety. In addition, doctors should be able to provide patients with appropriate and timely information when a patient asks about taking a supplement or herbal medicine.

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