Avastin and Revlimid, both chemotherapy drugs, typically cost cancer patients more than $10,000 per month. Another cancer drug treatment, Provenge, costs on average $93,000 for a course of treatment. All of these cancer treatment drugs are patented by the big "pharma" companies.
The May 12, 2011 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine published the results of the first DCA (also known as dichloroacetate) testing in humans. Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, of the University of Alberta, was the lead researcher of the study. Michelakis and his team studied five patients suffering from a deadly brain cancer. The results revealed the DCA treatment extended the lives of four of the five patients suffering from the brain cancer. However, there was no control group as part of the study.
In 2007, Michelakis initially experimented with mice and DCA. The results, published in the 2007 issue of Cancer Cell, were also very promising. DCA was put in the drinking water of the mice they studied. The mice had human lung tumors implanted into their bodies. DCA slowed the growth of cancer in the mice and fortunately "DCA did not affect normal cells."
According to MSNBC, "the mechanism by which DCA works in mice is remarkably simple: It killed most types of cancer cells by disrupting the way they metabolize sugar, causing them to self-destruct without adversely affecting normal tissues."
Prior to his trial in mice, Michelakis and his colleagues conducted additional tests of DCA on human cancer cells in a Petri dish.
The idea behind DCA is to give tumors more energy versus starving the tumor.
Currently DCA is being used to treat rare diseases like lactic acidosis. Also, DCA has been used to remove skin growths and warts.
A New York Times article about cancer stated "cancer cells do not usually kill themselves." In his interview with the newspaper, Dr. Michelakis said he believes this is because the cells "lack sufficient energy."
All of Michelakis’ trials possibly suggest DCA could be a powerful cancer treatment. However, these are the very early stages and other larger human trials are necessary.
Interestingly enough, DCA can not be patented. Because of this, pharmaceutical companies will not fund additional trials because they do not make a profit from drugs they do not hold the patent to. Also, DCA is relatively inexpensive.
Michelakis added, "If DCA proves to be effective, then it will be a ridiculously cheap drug."
In an interview with MSNBC, Daniel Chang, an oncologist at the Stanford Cancer Center who is not part of the DCA study, said, "I'm sure the lack of patentability is playing a role in the lack of investigation."
Please note you can not run out to the store and purchase DCA. DCA is not for sale legally in the U.S. Also, if the right dose is not administered correctly, DCA has been known to cause nerve damage, skin damage and body spasms.
Reviewed June 14, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton