According to the American Cancer Society, the odds you’ll develop cancer in your lifetime are one in two, if you’re a man, and one in three, if you’re a woman.1 But an experimental cancer drug shown to shrink tumors by correcting metabolic oddities in cancer cells shows promise in the fight against this deadly disease. The synthetic drug DCA (dichloroacetate) DOES indeed kill cancer cells, both in the lab and in human beings. However, whether it can reverse tumor growth without harming you in other ways remains to be seen.
The first clinical trial, although small, involving patients with brain cancer (glioblastoma) was encouraging, and the results were published in Science of Translational Medicine in 20102 . However, there is still a great deal more work to be done before DCA can be pronounced a safe and effective cancer treatment. An interesting aspect of DCA is that it’s an inexpensive, non-patentable molecule, which makes it of minimal value to pharmaceutical companies that profit by patenting expensive new drugs. Therefore, clinical trials are slow to get going due to lack of funding by Big Pharma. Researchers must await sufficient money to trickle in from government sources and public donations before moving forward. In the paragraphs below, my aim is to give you information from both sides of the story—the potential benefits as well as the possible risks.
Rats Fed DCA Showed Dramatic Tumor Regression
The impetus behind most of the DCA research has been cardiologist Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. In 2007, Michelakis and his colleagues sparked a firestorm of interest when they announced rats fed DCA showed rapid tumor regression without any apparent side effects. Michelakis has been the first to say these results are preliminary and cautions cancer patients to refrain from running out and buying the drug, prior to clinical trials. Yet, many desperate cancer patients with few remaining options are doing just that, and side effects ARE being reported. There are currently three clinical trials involving use of DCA to treat cancer that are currently recruiting participants3. Some of these studies plan to combine DCA with other chemotherapy drugs and radiation, all known to have damaging effects in your body. However, if you have cancer and are tempted to participate, there are some things you should know in order to make an informed decision about the risk versus the benefits of this experimental treatment.
Cancer Cells and Healthy Cells Have Different Metabolic Processes
In order to understand how DCA kills cancer cells, it is necessary to understand a bit about how the cellular metabolism of cancer cells differs from that of your normal, healthy cells. Cancer cells have very different metabolic processes than normal cells, in terms of how they derive their energy.4 It’s a rather complicated distinction, so please bear with me as I try to explain it in the simplest terms possible. There are two major pathways your cells use to covert sugar into energy: glucose oxidation and glycolysis:
- Glucose oxidationis the primary energy metabolism in normal cells and takes place in your mitochondria, which are the little “power plants” inside your cell; it requires the presence of oxygen, as its name suggests. This is why you breathe and your heart beats to circulate oxygen throughout your body. Glucose oxidation is sometimes referred to as cellular respiration.
- Glycolysis takes place in your cell’s cytoplasm. It can occur without the presence of oxygen. Glycolysis is less efficient for normal cells, but it is acancer cell’spreferredmeans of energy metabolism, and it depends on the availability of sugar.
So, when your cells are oxygen-starved they have a backup plan. They can extract energy from sugar without the presence of oxygen, by glycolysis. Pyruvate is required for glucose oxidation. There is an enzyme (pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase, or PDK) that acts as gatekeeper to regulate the flow of pyruvate into the mitochondria. If PDK is active, it suppresses the transport of pyruvate into the mitochondria, and your cell is forced to rely on glycolysis, even if oxygen is available. If PDK is inactive, pyruvate is shuttled into the mitochondria, even if oxygen is low. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells are masterful at deriving energy from glycolysis—they have very active PDK. The way to make a cancer cell unhappy is by suppressing PDK, forcing the cell to use glucose oxidation, instead of glycolysis. This is called the Warburg theory of cancer, or the Warburg hypothesis5. This is where DCA comes in.
DCA Instigates Mass Suicide among Cancer Cells
DCA suppresses PDK (the mitochondrial gatekeeper), and this fires up the cell’s mitochondria. Not only does this force the cancer cell to abandon its preferred metabolic process, but it flips the cell’s “suicide switch” as well. This happens because mitochondria are the primary regulators of apoptosis, or cellular suicide—they are loaded with sensors that react to abnormalities by pushing the cell’s self-destruct button. When a cancer cell’s mitochondria realize it’s a cancer cell, it spontaneously kills itself. This is the reason chemotherapy and radiation result in such terrible side effects—your healthy cells actually die much more easily because of this self-destruct button. The reason cancer is so fast growing is that the mitochondria have been deactivated, so the cells evade apoptosis, as well as being able to grow in the absence of oxygen (glycolysis)6. DCA reverses this.In effect, DCA directly causes cancer cell apoptosis and works synergistically other cancer therapies, such as radiation, gene therapy, and viral therapy. A number of scientific studies have been performed to date, and most are encouraging.
DCA–Cancer Research Review
Most of the studies thus far have been done on cell cultures in the lab (in vitro), as opposed to on cancer patients themselves (in vivo). Yet the results are impressively consistent across the board, suggesting DCA is effective against a wide variety of cancer types. The DCA Site7 has a good list of all clinical studies through 2011. The study that sparked the DCA excitement appeared in Cancer Cell in January 20078 According to an article in the Edmonton Journal9 in the 2007 rat study, DCA killed lung, breast, and brain cancer cells but left healthy cells alone. The rats’ tumors decreased by up to 70 percent in three weeks of DCA treatment, without negative side effects. This announcement led to a cyclone of excitement from cancer patients everywhere who scrambled to get their hands on the new “cancer cure,” in spite of warnings from Michelakis himself (and others) against prematurely self-medicating with the compound. Several more studies soon followed, including the first clinical trial2 involving brain cancer patients. In that trial, the research team selected five glioblastoma patients with a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer. They treated them with oral DCA for 15 months. Tumor tissue was compared before and after DCA treatment in three of the five patients. In all three, there were signs that the tumor growth had slowed, and more cancer cells were undergoing programmed cell death after the treatment with DCA. Unfortunately, one of the five patients died. Another had “debulking” surgery before completing the full course of DCA treatment.Below are some of the other DCA cancer studies, all within the past five years. (Note that none of these involved human subjects.)
- Endometrial Cancer: DCA causes apoptosis in endometrial cancer cells.10
- Prostate Cancer: DCA produces significant cytotoxic effects in prostate cancer cells11
- Breast Cancer: DCA has anti-proliferative properties against breast cancer cells and caused apoptosis of those cells12
- Colorectal Cancer: DCA reduced colon cancer tumors by 20 to 40 percent13
- Cervical Cancer: Researchers concluded DCA is a quick and effective cure for advanced cervical carcinoma14
For comprehensive information about DCA’s method of action, history, and related scientific research, refers to The DCA Site7, and to this 2011 article in the International Journal of Cancer15. It should be noted that caffeine may radically increases the effects of DCA16. In fact, this effect is so pronounced that some researchers are working on developing a “DCA-caffeine” cancer treatment protocol. Now that you’re aware of DCA’s cancer-fighting effects, let’s take a look at the adverse effects identified thus far.
DCA’s Side Effects Can Be Daunting
DCA is not a natural agent—it’s a chemical produced in the water chlorination process. It’s a small molecule, which accounts for one of its major advantages: DCA is easily absorbed by your body and can reach areas other drugs can’t, such as your brain, which is why it’s of particular interest for treating brain cancers. This, however, can be a two-edged sword, because any compound that easily permeates your brain can exert all sorts of unexpected and worrisome neurological effects. DCA is a byproduct of another chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE), a volatile organic compound believed to cause cancer. TCE is used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but is also used in adhesives, paint removers, and typewriter correction fluids. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports TCE is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” and may cause birth defects. They state TCE may also cause the following17:
- Skin rashes
- Nerve, kidney, and liver damage
- Impaired heart and immune function
When DCA is added to the drinking water of laboratory mice, it causes liver cancer. While DCA may offer hope and a novel approach to treating cancer, it is far from a “miracle cure.” Of course, chemotherapy drugs are quite toxic as well! DCA has been used successfully in children with metabolic disorders, with no signs of toxic poisoning. But adults appear to suffer more adverse effects—especially peripheral neuropathy and encephalopathy, such as the case described in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Neurology18. According to a survey performed by The DCA Site19, there are a fair number of serious side effects reported by those taking DCA, many of them neurological. Research suggests the side effects are at least somewhat dose-dependent, but safe dosing guidelines have not yet been established. In the online survey, the side effects reported by DCA users include:
- Tingling and numbness of the fingers, toes and lips
- Mild Nausea
- Leg weakness
- Anxiety & Depression
- Hand Tremors
- Ankle Swelling
- Increased Urinary Frequency
- Heavy Breathing
In some studies, under some circumstances, DCA seems to actually make cancer cells stronger. For example, an in-vitro animal study20 published in May 2010 revealed that some types of colon cancer cells are actually protected by DCA when grown under anoxic conditions or as xenografts in mice (xenografts are tissues transplanted into one species from a dissimilar species). And when DCA is combined with frontline drugs, it sometimes interferes with their effectiveness. The neurological side effects are compounded when DCA is used with other anti-cancer drugs, which are also neurotoxic. So, if you’re already using a cancer medication, DCA’s effects are going to be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. This underscores the importance of fully understanding the mechanisms of action of an agent before it enters clinical trials.
Where Can I Buy DCA?
Now that you’re informed about both sides of the DCA story, you are able to make a self-determined decision as to whether or not you would like to try this alternative treatment for your Cancer. As always, we will make this available to you to buy, but the choice and responsibility lies in your hands. I wish you the very best!
Disclaimer: Although this is posted under a section called ‘Cancer Cures’, we at EndAllDisease.com do not claim that anything in that section cures cancer. That would be illegal. Instead, we believe that there isn’t, and never will be a one-stop ‘cure’ to cancer or other diseases, and that eliminating disease requires many changes including diet, exercise, switching to healthy personal care products, and other lifestyle changes. We do how believe in the power of medicine to help aid and assist in the body’s natural healing process, so we provide this and other powerful medicinal remedies to give you options, other than letting your doctor poison you with conventional treatments.