Cheap, Safe Drug Kills Most Cancers

New Scientist has an article about a drug called DCA, which has been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders. It also has no patent. From New Scientist:

Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks…DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to

be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

Could this be a cure for cancer? A real one? New Scientist has more info about human trials and where to donate money for further research. —MEGHANN MARCO

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers [New Scientist]

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  1. cudthecrud says:

    It also seems to be fairly neurotoxic in some experiments and trials. See:
    J Neurochem. 2007 Jan;100(2):429-36;
    Neurology. 2006 Oct 10;67(7):1313;
    Neurology. 2006 Jul 11;67(1):184;
    and other problems:
    Metabolism. 2004 Aug;53(8):1087-94.

    It seems that it’s mostly being used to treat mitochondrial disorders these days.

  2. Stepehn Colbert says:

    wow, thats the best Goddamn news I’ve heard in a looong time.

  3. chickymama says:

    Not only could it be a cure for cancer, but that a pharmaceutical company won’t be able to sell it at such a cost that only a few can benefit from it.

  4. Shaggy says:

    Hmm…front page says 3 comments, but I only see one…

  5. katre says:

    There are thousands of compounds that kill cancer. Many of them also kill any other cell. Most of the rest work great in a petri dish but either don’t work at all in a human body, or simply can’t be delivered reliably enough.

    In short, call me when they’ve actually conducted human trials and seen it work.

  6. lincolnparadox says:


    They’re feeding it to people with heart problems and mitochondrial/metabolic disorders. It does have some side effects, but perhaps a more directed treatment regimen (better than mixing it in with water, or popping a pill), targeted to effect the tumor alone might yield less side effects.

    The thing to keep in mind with this treatment is that it shifts towards oxidative energy production in the mitochondria of effected cells. This leads to an increase in cellular hydrogen peroxide levels (you ever put hydrogen peroxide on a cut, imagine that inside your cells). This leads to cell death. In cancer cells, which are cheating normal cell death, this may cause them to die off like normal cells do.

    Is this a cure? I dunno. Sounds like a step in the right direction.

  7. csnoke says:

    If they’re already feeding this to folks with heart problems than I think we already have a clinical trial… there should be a statistic, somewhere, of the number of patients hat have died from cancer after taking the drug.

    If it’s a really small number… let’s get going.

  8. TVarmy says:

    csnoke:

    I like your idea, but keep in mind that unless they keep taking the drug, their body might actually be MORE susceptible to cancer because of the side effects. What would be interesting is to see how many people have developed cancer while on the drug.

    This could be very, very good news.

  9. steve says:

    This link seems to go into a lot more detail about the story, and covers it nicely:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/01/in_which_my_word

  10. justin.ryan says:

    Hopefully, if this does really end up working for humans, it will become available to the people who need it. I’ve read many things in the past about amazing medicines that could be available dirt cheap, only to see the drug companies or another organization step in and make them disappear.

  11. cjc says:

    I think the big idea from this particular story is that the discovery points to another way of attacking cancer, and another way of viewing cancer in terms of cell metabolism.

    Probably, we’ll see human trials to test how effective this new method is (the drug has already passed through safety trials, as it’s being used to treat specific metabolic disorders). If it passes those efficacy trials, we’ll probably see it used in combination with standard forms chemotherapy, etc.

  12. j.b. says:

    There’s an interesting article in the Economist, obstensibly about Pfizer, that gives some background on the overall mechanics and operating incentives of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s interesting reading.

    http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_i