Ivermectin is an FDA-approved drug used to treat health challenges related to parasitic worms such as intestinal strongyloidiasis (a chronic infection), onchocerciasis (also called river blindness), and other parasitic infections. It is also approved as a topical treatment for head lice and skin related conditions such as rosacea. It has also been shown to have anti-viral activity against a broad range of viruses (Ref.1, Ref.2, Ref.3)
It has been used in a safe manner since 1970s, by over 200 million people worldwide (Ref.), and its contribution to saving human lifes has been recognised via the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (Ref).
During 2020, Ivermectin has come into the spotlight after the discovery of its antiviral potential (I will not name the virus here so that the page is not downgraded by the search engine algorithms), by an Australian academic team (Ref.). Following that report and after performing research on the subject, I have included Ivermectin during May 2020 in the list of drugs and supplements with potential against the virus. The article can be found on this website, published on March 13th 2020.
I decided so fast to add this drug on the list of drugs with potential against the virus that caused the recent pandemic, as I was positively biased by my previous research related to this drug. And it seems I was right in my assessment, given all the positive results that have been observed after Ivermectin has been implemented during the past years to address the viral infection.
Now, I would like to make a similar statement regarding the anti cancer potential of Ivermectin. According to the scientific literature that we will address below, Ivermectin is one of the drugs standing on top of the list of repurposed drugs in oncology, due to its outstanding potential to fight cancer.
Indeed, this is a drug that stood out in my research of the scientific literature since 2014. At that time, there was not much information available on Ivermectin application in oncology – only reserch in the laboratory. In terms of application of Ivermectin outside the conventional use, the most relevant source of information I found at that time was by Dr. Simon Yu, and MD on Internal Medicine from the USA, intensively using Ivermectin to cure autism in children (Ref.).
During the past years, occasionally, this drug came up in our discussion either in the Blog or in the Forum section, in the cancer context and more recently in the virus-related discussions. However, I never allocated time to address the drug in details, because there was no case report published in a peer review article to demonstrate the potential of this drug against cancer in real life, beyond the academic research in the lab. At least not to my knowledge.
Fortunately, also during the past years we have seen an increased attention of the medical and scientific community towards the anti-cancer properties of this drug. In this context, an article has been recently published, including multiple positive case reports, demonstrating that Ivermectin can add value to the life of cancer patients. Therefore, this is a good time to address this drug, with the hope and expectation that many more cases like these will follow.
Note: while going through the literature, I found one more publication on the use of Ivermectin on cancer patients, that will be shortly addressed below.
Ivermectin in Oncology – The Science
In laboratory, Ivermectin has been shown to be able to kill cancer cells of many types, such as
- Breast Cancer (Ref.1, Ref.2, Ref.3)
- Ovarian Cancer (Ref.1, Ref.2)
- Prostate Cancer (Ref.)
- Colorectal Cancer (Ref,)
- Brain Cancer (Ref.1, Ref.2, Ref.3, Ref.4)
- Renal Cancer (Ref.)
- Leukemia (Ref.)
- AML (Ref.)
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (Ref.)
- Lung Cancer (Ref.1, Ref.2)
- and many others.
However, many substances have been shown to kill cancer in laboratory. So why woudl Ivermectin be more relevant?
Ivermectin, stands out in my view because it acts as a strong ionophore and up-regulates chloride channels (Ref.).
Indeed, Ivermectin is known to increase the activity of glutamate-chloride ion channel, increasing the influx of chloride ions inside the cells, and consequently blocking signal transmission between neurons and muscles. This is the main mechanism which is responsible for its antiparasitic effects. At a higher concentration, ivermectin also stimulates chloride channels in mammals.
While as we will see below Ivermectin works through multiple anti cancer mechanisms, I believe its interference with ion dynamics across cellular membrane is the most important property responsible for the anti cancer effects of Ivermectin (Ref.). This is because, the over activity of cancer cells vs normal cells requires an intense movement of ions outside-in and inside-out of ions such as Potassium, Chloride, etc.
During the past years, I have discussed why this ion dynamics is so important and in that context I addressed outstanding Ionophores such as Salinomycin or Ion transporters inhibitors such as Bufalin. Other ion transporter inhibitors known to have outstanding anti cancer properties are e.g. Oubain, Oleander, Digoxins, also known as Cardiac Glycosides.
Cardiac Glycosides, act on the K/Na exchange while Salinomycin mainly on Potassium. That is different compared to Chloride that is the initial target of Ivermectin. However, no matter which “string you pull” you end up affecting the dynamics of many other ions. So when you act on Chloride, you will end up also affecting Potassium and the other way around.
Actually, this is what electro-magnetic fields are also doing and this is why they have potential to affect the development of tumors, as they mess up with the ion dynamics. In turn, interference with ion dynamics can have impact on e.g. intracellular pH and as a result impact functionality of various enzymes, and at a more general level interference with major intracellular pathways and mechanisms.
As a reminder, Salinomycin remains the most effective anti cancer drug I have seen, and I believe Ivermectin is not far from that in terms of potential. However, because of its accessibility, well known safety, and ease of implementation Ivermectin may be even more relevant.
Coming back to Chloride that is affected by Ivermectin, it may be interesting to remember that Chlorotoxin found in scorpion venom (see my post on scorpion venom) (Ref.) can also inhibit chloride channels. This leads to the opposite outcome in terms of Chlorine ion dynamics but the result is still killing the cancer cell (Ref.). This is a similar story with that of pro-oxidants and anti-oxidants treatment strategies in oncology. No matter which one you pick it will be effective against cancer as long as it is done in a coherent manner, so that the treatments used they are either pro- or anti-oxidants. Same here with Chlorine intracellular accumulation (by Ivermectin) or depletion by scorpion venom. We shoudl chouse either one, or the other but not both at the same time.
Nevertheless, academic research has indicated that Ivermectin can address many more mechanism that can lead to tumor suppression. Whether all or some of those mechanisms have at the base its ionophore activity remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the list of anti cancer mechanisms related to Ivermectin is outstanding:
- Can trigger “Immunogenic Cancer Cell Death”. This is a form of cancer cell death that “wakes up” the immune system and therefore initiates an immune response. As a result, it has been proposed that Ivermectin coudl be a great combination with forms of immuno therapy such as checkpoint inhibitors. (Ref.)
- Downregulates glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) (Ref.)
- Potentiated activity of anti–androgen receptor and anti-EGFR drugs (Ref.)
- Inhibited cancer stem‑like cells (CSC) (Ref.)
- Inhibits angiogenesis (Ref.)
- Inhibition of metastasis (Ref.)
- WNT pathway inhibitor (Ref.1)
- Increased reactive oxygen species generation that was functionally important for ivermectin-induced cell death (Ref.)
- Microtubule inhibitor (Ref.)
- Multi Drug Resistance Pumps inhibitor (Ref.)
- At a higher dose, Ivermectin can inactivate the protein kinase PAK1 and blocks the PAK1 dependent growth – PAK1 is critical for cytoskeleton reorganization and nuclear signalling. PAK-1 kinase is required for the growth of more than 70% of human cancers (Ref.) This activity is similar to Caffeic Acid from Propolis.
This amazing list of activity explains why Ivermectin has such as large anti cancer potential.