No, ivermectin isn’t being withheld as cancer ‘cure’
CLAIM: Searches on the National Institutes of Health website show that ivermectin is a cure for cancer but it is being suppressed.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The website shows that some studies have explored the use of ivermectin in relation to cancer. There are no studies demonstrating the drug cures cancer in humans, experts say, but some are researching the use of ivermectin in combination with other therapies to treat breast cancer.
THE FACTS: A popular Facebook video is falsely suggesting that ivermectin, an approved antiparasitic drug that was peddled as an unproven treatment for COVID-19, is a known cure for cancer but is being withheld by officials.
“If you go to the NIH website and search for ivermectin and cancer, you will see that they have known for years — years, probably decades — that they have the cure for cancer,” a woman in the video claims. “And they had the cure for numerous other diseases and ailments and they’ve been hiding it from us.”
But experts say there is no data showing the drug is a “cure” for cancer.
A search on the NIH website for “ivermectin” and “cancer,” as the video instructs, simply shows that there have been early studies exploring if ivermectin can play a role in slowing cancer cell growth or treating tumors.
Dr. Susanne Arnold, associate director for clinical translation at the Markey Cancer Center in Kentucky, told The Associated Press that there have been preclinical studies exploring using ivermectin and similar drugs to slow cancer cell growth in labs, with some interesting results. She noted, however, that such studies aren’t the same as proving the drugs work in humans.
“I know of no reports of clinical trials that yielded successful results in humans with cancer,” Arnold said in an email.
That said, some cancer researchers believe ivermectin could be promising when used in combination with other drugs and are conducting further studies.
Dr. Peter P. Lee, chair of the immuno-oncology department at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in California, has studied using ivermectin in combination with a specific antibody, referred to as anti-PD1, for treating breast cancer — with positive results in mice. In short, the research explores ivermectin’s role in inducing cancer cell death and allowing T cells to infiltrate tumors. Lee and fellow researchers are preparing to run a clinical trial in humans.
“Certainly by itself ivermectin is not a cure or even an effective treatment for breast cancer,” Lee said in an interview.
Lee acknowledged that ivermectin has been a controversial subject in relation to COVID-19, but he said his research suggests the drug should continue to be explored for its potential as part of cancer treatments.
“I pride myself as a rigorous, fair-minded scientist,” Lee said. “And in our hands, through many years of experiments, it has promise — but not by itself.”
The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement that it “disseminates evidence-based, scientifically accurate information about cancer to the public. It does not appear from a search of our resources that the NCI maintains any information supporting the claim that ivermectin is a ‘cure for cancer.’”
This story has been updated to add a statement from the National Cancer Institute.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.