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Dichloroacetate - DCA

The University of Alberta Discovery

 
DCA is an odourless, colourless, inexpensive, relatively non-toxic, small molecule. And researchers at the University of Alberta believe it may soon be used as an effective treatment for many forms of cancer.

Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, a professor at the U of A Department of Medicine, has shown that dichloroacetate (DCA) causes regression in several cancers, including lung, breast, and brain tumors.

Michelakis and his colleagues, including post-doctoral fellow Dr. Sebastien Bonnet, have published the results of their research in the journal Cancer Cell.

Scientists and doctors have used DCA for decades to treat children with inborn errors of metabolism due to mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondria, the energy producing units in cells, have been connected with cancer since the 1930s, when researchers first noticed that these organelles dysfunction when cancer is present.

 Until recently, researchers believed that cancer-affected mitochondria are permanently damaged and that this damage is the result, not the cause, of the cancer. But Michelakis, a cardiologist, questioned this belief and began testing DCA, which activates a critical mitochondrial enzyme, as a way to "revive" cancer-affected mitochondria. The results astounded him.

Michelakis and his colleagues found that DCA normalized the mitochondrial function in many cancers, showing that their function was actively suppressed by the cancer but was not permanently damaged by it.

More importantly, they found that the normalization of mitochondrial function resulted in a significant decrease in tumor growth both in test tubes and in animal models. Also, they noted that DCA, unlike most currently used chemotherapies, did not have any effects on normal, non-cancerous tissues.

"I think DCA can be selective for cancer because it attacks a fundamental process in cancer development that is unique to cancer cells," Michelakis said. "One of the really exciting things about this compound is that it might be able to treat many different forms of cancer".

Another encouraging thing about DCA is that, being so small, it is easily absorbed in the body, and, after oral intake, it can reach areas in the body that other drugs cannot, making it possible to treat brain cancers, for example.

Also, because DCA has been used in both healthy people and sick patients with mitochondrial diseases, researchers already know that it is a relatively non-toxic molecule that can be immediately tested patients with cancer.

"The results are intriguing because they point to the critical role that mitochondria play: they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy"

Dario Alteri - Director University of Massachusetts Cancer Center

Investing in Research

The DCA compound is not patented and not owned by any pharmaceutical company, and, therefore, would likely be an inexpensive drug to administer, says Michelakis, the Canada Research Chair in Pulmonary Hypertension and Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program with Capital Health, one of Canada’s largest health authorities.

However, as DCA is not patented, Michelakis is concerned that it may be difficult to find funding from private investors to test DCA in clinical trials. He is grateful for the support he has already received from publicly funded agencies, such as the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and he is hopeful such support will continue and allow him to conduct clinical trials of DCA on cancer patients.

Michelakis’ research is currently funded by the CIHR, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Research Chairs program, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

"This preliminary research is encouraging and offers hope to thousands of Canadians and all others around the world who are afflicted by cancer, as it accelerates our understanding of and action around targeted cancer treatments," said Dr. Philip Branton, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer. 

"If there were a magic bullet, though, it might be something like dichloroacetate, or DCA…"

Newsweek, January 23, 2007

 

DCA and Cancer Patients

The University of Alberta’s DCA Research Team was set to launch clinical trials on humans in the spring of 2007 pending government approval, and funds were raised from the public and institutional donors to allow this to go forward. Knowing that thousands of cancer patients die weekly while waiting for a cure, Dr. Michelakis and his team promised to work at accelerated speed, condensing research that usually takes years into months.

Unfortunately no results of this trial seem to be available and the whole issue seems to have started to go cold. Understandably, in view of the absence of proper scientific data and the apparent lack of progress from human trials, numbers of terminally-ill cancer sufferers who feel they have little to lose are trying to take matters into their own hands by self-administering DCA.

However the ‘authorities’ are already intervening (as they invariably do) to prevent this; a number of warnings about using DCA for self medication have appeared, and web sites selling DCA for self administration are being shut down. This has already taken place in the UK under the auspices of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and in due course it is likely that the US FDA will follow suit. (The UK health authorities are rapidly earning themselves a reputation for introducing such restrictions even more quickly, and often with less justification than, the US FDA - a considerable achievement).

Alberta Uni Logo 
http://www.dca.med.ualberta.ca/Home/index.cfm

Click on the link or the University’s logo above to go to the DCA page

(donations to aid DCA research are actively sought)

 

For the latest developments, visit the DCA Discussion Forum.

(All links will open in a new window or tab)

 

 

 

 

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