Cancer and Dichloroacetate

December 4, 2012

I read a lot of science papers for recreation and as part of my real job. Even though I’m a strong opponent of homeopathic medicine, wild medical claims, and conspiracy theories, a series of papers on DCA intrigued me. It intrigued me in part because the medical skeptic blogs had poor responses. So here goes …

Dichloroacetate or DCA is being shown to have good effects on some cancer. It is well known that cancer and glucose metabolism are related while the usual powerhouse of the cell is shutdown, the mitochondria. DCA appears to work by restoring the operation of mitochondria in cancer cells causing the cancer cell to then die.

In 2007 the University of Alberta published in the reputable Cancer Cell publication that “the orally available DCA is a promising selective anticancer agent,” results from a small study.

The paper is linked here

Many chemicals are anticancer agents but the key is finding chemicals that are anticancer agents and are relatively harmless to healthy cells. DCA is widely reported to have side effects that appear to be reversible when the chemical is no longer taken. The side effects appear to be less than many chemotherapy drugs. One of the skeptical websites mentions a fellow from the Netherlands who took 400 mg of DCA per day for 4 weeks and experienced pretty severe neurological problems that took nearly 8 months to clear up. Most papers point to tingling in fingers and toes after weeks of use that goes away when the chemical is no longer consumed.

The 2007 paper set off a mini-firestorm of interest. Dichloroacetate is a simple molecule and easy to manufacture. A few entrepreneurs began selling DCA to desperate patients willing to self medicate. The FDA quickly stepped in and shut down the sale of DCA. As a result, sales of DCA moved out of the country. Some foreign DCA websites are reported to sell DCA but never deliver. A company in Canada was delivering fake chemicals and the owner was convicted – fools!

Nevertheless, in May 2010 the same University of Alberta team following normal medical research procedure announced their findings on what the proper dose for DCA could be. Five patients with advanced glioblastoma were treated with DCA. Once again, not to cure them of cancer but just to figure out what a safe dose for DCA. Three of the five showed a shrinkage of their tumor.

So far so good. However, modern medical research is agonizingly slow as they go through the lengthy processes designed to protect the public. It’s a tradeoff being safety, innovation, scams,and government inefficiency.

In September 2010, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China reported in the reputable European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry that DCA can induce cancer cell death and inhibit tumor growth. They mentioned that it’s cytotoxic activity was low. That mean it’s cancer killing ability was not great. They also experimented with other derivatives of DCA with promising results.

Another Chinese article was published on January 13, 2011 from Southwest Hospital, Dept of Oncology, Chongqing, China which studied using DCA in combination with 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU). The researcher found that DCA used in combination with 5-FU was more effective against colorectal cancer cells than 5-FU alone.

A Jan 2011, an Austrian article in the reputable Clinical Translational Oncology publication found that DCA used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs such as satraplatin, carboplatin, enhanced the potency of the chemotherapy drug.

October 1 2012 the University of Lille, France released a reputable study once again stating how DCA enhanced the effectiveness of Eleclomol against metastatic melanoma already resistant to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib.

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Studies that worked with DCA in non-cancerous conditions are here.

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Skeptical DCA website by Orac

Orac appears critical of the University of Alberta’s work and explains the 5 cases of brain cancer.

This fellow spends the first 4 paragraphs on his DCA response on a meaningless personal attack. While I appreciate folks who spend the time to educate, there is a difference between a real skeptic and a smart mouth. Orac comes across like a smart mouth because he gets so caught up in proving and preaching what is not really important. Of course, we all know that having properly designed studies is the best situation. But for a skeptic to mock people who don’t have 5 years to wait for properly designed studies just makes one a jerk. Folks want to simply know does DCA have a positive effect on their cancer or not.

Orac provides good information on each of the five 2010 U. of Alberta patients. However, he fails noticed that the 4 out of the 5 patients were still alive after 15 months with advanced glioblastoma and some doing “well” – and that appears to be a big deal. The prognosis of glioblastoma is an average life expectancy of less than a year.

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Now here are some Doctor’s who are pushing ahead with DCA alone and in combination with standard chemo. Medicor Cancer Centres in Canada. The minute they use the word “naturopathic” I start thinking scam. I think the research shows that DCA does have some positive effect and when used in combination with standard chemo could offer some positive benefits.

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Now onto the anecdotal reports from the alternative medicine type folks and probably less reliable.

Self-medicating with DCA for Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma.

There are many anecdotal reports on the web as well.

In conclusion, it appears that DCA or a derivative of DCA will have some use in fighting some types of cancer either alone or more likely, in combination with existing chemotherapy. It appears the reports of negative side effects are overblown but must be considered. More human trials are absolutely

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necessary. If I had cancer death sentence I’d probably give it a go in parallel with standard treatment.

 

 

 

 

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