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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Dog Cancer and the Malaria Drug Artemisinin, Part 2

Updated: December 18th, 2018

This is a continuation post on artemisinin, a compound that is found sweet wormwood. This agent is currently used for malaria treatment. Recently there has been interest in it’s application in dog cancer treatment. It has caught on in bone cancer care for dogs (osteosarcoma).

In the last post we summarized some mechanisms where artemisinin may help with several different cancer types. There are certainly in vitro (test tube) studies that show artemisinin, or closely related agents, can kill cancer cells.

Unfortunately killing a cancer cell in a petri dish may have nothing to do, whatsoever, with killing cancer in a living body. Hundreds upon hundreds of compounds show promise in the test tube and when used in a lab animal, dog or human do very little to nothing.

Is there evidence that arteminisin, or analogs (an analog is a related compound), work in living bodies?

Well, there is a case report in print out of India where the artemisinin analog artesunate was used to treat a human patient with laryngeal cancer with good results. However, injections were given, in addition to tablets. Dog lovers would need to go to their veterinarians regularly to accomplish this. Click here for the link.

The journal Clinical Cancer Research recently published an article (here is is) that showed that artemisinin was capable of slowing the growth of hepatoma (liver) cancer cells in mice.

There was another article (here you go) that showed some semi-synthetic derivatives of artemisinin helped a mouse model of prostate cancer too.

Finally, kidney cancer cells put in mice showed slowed growth and angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation to feed the cancers) when the mice were treated with the artemisinin analog artesunate. Here is the abstract.

So there’s some evidence that something or other is indeed going on here.

For more information on dog cancer, get a copy of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide

A new drug is being made by Dr. Lai, one of the original artemisinin guys in cancer treatment at the University of Washinton. The drug improves it’s cancer killing effects by boosting its movement into cancer cells with iron. (See the last artemisinin post for more on the iron topic).

My overall impression here is that we are pretty early in the game to say we have a real contender. Not that we do not have a real contender, just that it seems the hype may not be in proportion to the documented effects. Investigation and consideration is strongly advised!

If you want to investigate and consider artemisinin with your vet or oncologist, the possible dose spread is huge, vaguely around 2 to 15 mg per pound one time a day. There is much variation on recommended doses.

Here is some other info on artemisinin:

Give with some oily material (omega 3 fatty acids would be one option).
Give 1 week on, 1 week off, since the absorption if artemisinin decreases after about 1 week.
Do not use if your dog is on seizure control medication.
Do not use when your dog is getting radiation.
Possibly can be used with most chemo agents, but all interactions have not been assessed.
Antixodant effects may interfere with artmesinin’s activity.
Upset stomach may be seen with artemisinin. Rare liver marker elevation and suppression of blood cells has been seen in humans. Here is a safety review in humans.
Do not give artemisinin with iron in the food or it can react with this iron and be consumed before it enters cancer cells. Meat, fortified foods, and supplements are some common iron sources in the diet.

Best to all,

Dr Dressler


Leave a Comment

  1. Joanna W on June 12, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Dr. Dressler,

    I know you say above in the post and in the book that you do not recommend iron to be given with artemisinin.

    But in this post I found it says all dogs referenced in the following paragraph were given iron along with the artemisinin.

    “Early Success with Canine Osteosarcoma
    Treatment with artemisinin was started on a dog with a bone cancer so severe it could not walk across the room. Within five days of treatment the dog was able to walk normally, and X-rays confirmed the disappearance of the tumor. Several dogs with lymphosarcoma had also been treated with artemisinin with an immediate reduction in tumor size. In all these canine cases, an iron supplement was used.”

    Do you know where that information on those cases mentioned can be found ?

    Thank you,

  2. Susan Kazara Harper on September 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Hi Tony,
    On page 171 of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Dr Dressler addresses using other powerful apoptogens as follows; “Using potent wormwood preparations such as artemisinin, Artemix or artemether at the same time as Apocaps, has not been evaluated for safety, so it is not recommended. If you choose to use wormwood preparations, use them in alternation with Apocaps, on a rotating schedule of five days on Apocaps (and stop artemisinin), five days on artemisinin (and stop Apocaps), five days on Apocaps (and stop artemisinin), and so on”. There is much more in the guide which I think may help you on this journey, but I hope this quoted section addresses your current question. All the best to you both.

  3. Tony on September 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Dr. Dressler
    Do you feel it is possible to take Apocaps along with Artemix? I’m not certain of the toxicity levels of either and would like to know you thoughts on the toxicity levels of Apocaps. I am currently giving my 8 yr old Rottie (osteosarcoma) 3 Apocaps – 3x per day. I am thinking of trying Artemix as well.

    Many thanks

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