Anticancer treatment efficacy is limited by the development of refractory tumor cells characterized by increased expression and activity of mechanisms promoting survival, proliferation, and metastatic spread. The present review summarizes the current literature regarding the use of the anthelmintic mebendazole (MBZ) as a repurposed drug in oncology with a focus on cells resistant to approved therapies, including so called "cancer stem cells". Mebendazole meets many of the characteristics desirable for a repurposed drug: good and proven toxicity profile, pharmacokinetics allowing to reach therapeutic concentrations at disease site, ease of administration and low price. Several in vitro studies suggest that MBZ inhibits a wide range of factors involved in tumor progression such as tubulin polymerization, angiogenesis, pro-survival pathways, matrix metalloproteinases, and multi-drug resistance protein transporters. Mebendazole not only exhibits direct cytotoxic activity, but also synergizes with ionizing radiations and different chemotherapeutic agents and stimulates antitumoral immune response. In vivo, MBZ treatment as a single agent or in combination with chemotherapy led to the reduction or complete arrest of tumor growth, marked decrease of metastatic spread, and improvement of survival. Further investigations are warranted to confirm the clinical anti-neoplastic activity of MBZ and its safety in combination with other drugs in a clinical setting.
Keywords: CSC; anticancer; cancer; cancer stem cells; chemoresistance; mebendazole; radioresistance; repurposing; stemness.