DCA (Dichloroacetate) and Cancer – Thoughts and Update

In December of 2007 I worked graveyard shift at a local hospital and gave little thought to alternative therapies, nutrition and/or cancer therapies.

But I did read an article that New Scientist magazine had published about a Canadian professor who worked at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and the theories proposed by him and a team of unusual depth and breadth about the causes of some cancers and a substance that might be used to cure them. You can find a copy of that article here – http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10971-cheap-safe-drug-kills-most-cancers.html .

That professor – Evangelos Michelakis – and his team had published the results of laboratory studies that indicated that a substance called dichloroacetate (DCA) could be used to cause upregulation of cancer cells’ mitochondrial activity, and that this could cause cancer cells to kill themselves – while normal cells remained unaffected.

You can find a copy of that article here – http://www.cell.com/cancer-cell/retrieve/pii/S1535610806003722 .

After reading the article I felt compelled to understand this claim more fully, so I devoted significant time and energy to following up on the information that had been presented and the substance called DCA.

Then, once I thought I had a handle on the fundamental information, I promptly got busy with other things and forgot about it. After all, I was NOT an oncology pharmacist. In fact, I worked hard to stay as far away from that work as I could.

But pharmacists never know what people will ask them to help them with, and while I was walking through one of the wards one night a nurse stopped me and started telling me about her dad and asking me if I had any alternative ‘ideas’ he could try.

You see, her dad was a doctor and he had terminal lung cancer. I told her – with as much compassion as I could muster at 3AM – that I didn’t know anything more than the docs already did, but I would keep my eyes open.

As I worked my way back to the pharmacy that little voice that nags at you when you’ve done less than your best started whispering in my ear about dichloroacetate.

By the end of the shift I had printed out the article and some other information I’d previously tracked down, and I gave it – along with caveats and a summary of my understanding of the information – to the nurse who had stopped me. She told me she’d get it to her dad right away. I promptly got back to my work and forgot about it.

A week or so later that same nurse stopped me again and told me that her dad sent his thanks, and he was so appreciative for the information. In fact, she told me, he’d already gotten access to some DCA through a pharmacist somewhere and was taking it. He wasn’t sure how it was supposed to be mixed or the dose, but the pharmacist had helped him, and he thought he was on the right track. But, she told me, it was ‘fearsome stuff’ to take. I told her I was glad I could help and got back to work.

The next time I saw that nurse she stopped me again. She told me that her dad had stopped taking the DCA because he’d developed some severe neuropathy and it didn’t seem to be working.

As I walked away from that conversation I felt frustrated and angry. Angry that I didn’t have enough information to answer her questions about the toxicity, dosing, and side effect causes for this ‘drug’, and angry that it wasn’t working.

So, I took another look at DCA. A REAL look, from a pharmacist’s point of view.

In the meantime, things had really heated up on the mainstream media side. New Scientist magazine had published a couple more articles about DCA and this professor’s work, all the while emphasizing that it was all so preliminary and speculative and nobody should be trying to use it. The University of Alberta had also published a disclaimer on its website that basically said that they supported their research team to the fullest, but what they were saying shouldn’t really be listened to. It was, after all, only theory and lab results.

But the genie was out of the bottle, and the public was clamoring for access to this substance. The U.S. regulatory folk had put on a full press to keep people from getting DCA, but websites had sprung up with DCA being the only topic. Despite it being banned, people were somehow getting access to DCA. But they were getting the neuropathy problems and problems with formulation too.

Eventually, the public pressure and support for this substance reached such a fevered pitch that people were making donations to the University of Alberta to fund a clinical trial to figure out whether DCA worked as claimed or not. Maybe then – they thought – they would be able to get access to DCA.

You can get info on that trial’s progress and the university’s position on the topic at http://www.dca.med.ualberta.ca/Home/index.cfm .

And – as I started to say above – I got a lot smarter about DCA and its use in other clinical trials to treat hereditary diseases that had at their roots mitochondrial dysfunction, misregulation and failure to produce energy properly.

It quickly became apparent that dosing DCA could not be done as we usually dosed medications. It had a unique characteristic by which the body adapted to it and stopped metabolizing it as quickly after awhile. This would lead to blood levels that were higher than intended and the appearance of a multitude of side effects – including neuropathy. It was also noted that mixing this caustic material into a drink that could be safely consumed was tricky – and I noted that most people wouldn’t know enough to get it mixed up right.

Mixed improperly DCA would indeed be something that would be ‘fearsome’ to take. But, I had tracked down the title of an article that detailed how they had mixed the DCA for the mitochondrial disease trials.

Obviously one would need a sharp pharmacist and the information in the article to get this one right.

I studied this information as fast as I could, as I knew the nurse would be stopping me again to talk about her dad, his disease, and DCA. I wanted to be prepared. Then the word was circulating around the wards that this nurse’s dad had died. Everyone was sad. I wished I’d have been smarter and studied harder sooner.

So, I put all my data into a binder and continued to follow the clinical trial that was finally beginning to recruit patients. But trials take forever to get going and completed …. so I got busy with other things and forgot about it.

A couple of months ago I read an update on those trials – I truthfully don’t remember where – but the bottom line is that they studied a limited number of patients who had the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma, and the results seem to indicate that the DCA was capable of positively impacting those patient’s outcomes. You can find a copy of the journal article that details the trial’s results here – http://dca-information.pbworks.com/f/Metabolic%20Modulation%20of%20Glioblastoma%20with%20Dichloroacetate.pdf.

Notice – if you would – that the mainstream press did NOT hype this trial’s results. In fact, it wasn’t covered at all – as far as I can tell – except for the one article I blundered across while looking for alternatives for my family member. (Just in case the protocol she’s currently following fails. You know.)

Anyway – back to topic – there is something just wrong about that. It’s major news, I think.

And I find myself wanting to make sure I don’t come up short again on my support of those trying to keep themselves alive.

So… I’m listing the info about the article that contains what your doc and pharmacist would need to mix and dose DCA safely below.

The article that details how to mix DCA right is titled ‘Development of an Oral Drug Formulation for Dichloroacetate and Thamine‘, and its reference is:

Henderson GN, Whalen PO, Darr RA, Curry SH, Darendorf H, Baumgartner TG and Stacpoole PW. ‘Development of a Drug Formulation for Dichloroacetate and Thiamine‘. Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy. 20(15), 2425-2437 (1994).

You can find the article at http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a785358792~frm=titlelink .

I’m giving you this address to help your librarian find you a copy – either through their contracted online providers or interlibrary loan. Or you can try the librarian at a major hospital or cancer center. If you don’t want to wait you can buy access to the article. But it’s not cheap. If all else fails or you are out of time drop me an e-mail using the links on this website and I’ll try to get you access to a copy.

It is my understanding that some cancer centers in Canada are already making this substance available to their patients. There are a plethora of websites that have information about it. I am sure there are many who can fill in the blanks much better than I can, and saying more seems to border on advocating you take this substance. A good starting point might be this site: http://www.thedcasite.com/index.html.

Let me be clear – I am NOT advocating this substance for the treatment of cancer.

I am also NOT saying that I think it has no chance of working. 

(In fact, please note that I have devoted a lot of time that I should have been dedicating to sleep to getting this info posted for your review and consideration.)

I AM trying to stay true to my goal of providing you with unbiased and balanced information that I believe hasn’t been properly delivered to the public so that you can have a discussion with your physicians about whether it might be an option or not.

I know people are trying DCA – and I also know it is a dangerous substance if not properly dosed and formulated. So – to try to keep people from getting hurt and/or improperly treated – I’ve provided the reference to the article that contains the information that your doctor and pharmacist will need to properly dose and compound it for you if your physician wants to try it.

Most of what you need to know is in the article I referenced above, and your physician and pharmacist will know how to get a copy of it – or if they can’t – your university’s library or hospital librarian will know how to get you a copy.

This is NOT a substance you should tackle on your own without medical support!

Again – I’m a Pharmacist, not a Physician. Pharmacists Pharmacist. Physicians Physician. Talk to your physician and get his/her buyin before trying this or any other drug.

8 thoughts on “DCA (Dichloroacetate) and Cancer – Thoughts and Update

  1. I am taking DCA for metastatic colon cancer. It is very easy to take and the dosage is easy. I do have peripheral neurapathy but it is under control. I was diagnosed 16 months ago and had a 50% reduction in my tumors using DCA. My tumors are not growing I feel fine and have no symptoms. I too think that the news from Alberta on the Glioblastoma trials was very big news and wonder why the news media ignored it.

    I am being watched and given CT scans by a leading cancer center in the US. I feel fine today and my next CT scan is November 11th.

  2. It’s good to hear. Thank you so much for sharing. I did not mean to say that DCA was impossible to mix or to use. But, depending on the form that you get it in it can be nasty stuff from a pharmacist’s point of view. If it’s mixed right it’s no big deal to take. The article will tell you how to mix it if you don’t already know. One thing you might notice from the article is the fact that they added thiamine. It’s supposed to help with the neuropathy. I’m working from memory here – but I think the reason is that DCA depletes thiamine levels.

    FYI, you might benefit from looking at the aspirin a day (or every 12 hours is what I take) posts. Colon cancers have been reported over and over again to be particularly sensitive to aspirin, nsaid, and/or celebrex inhibition.

    Take care. Stay well. Hope you can learn something that will help from this website.


  3. Another thought. As Robert says above, I am aware of several cancer centers working with DCA. The ones I’m aware of are using it as an adjunctive treatment to radiation treatments. If it works, I’m sure others will be trying it in other ways. And, personally, I think it works for some types of cancer.

  4. Steve,

    Your talk of caustic material makes me think your mixing up Dichloroacetate with Dichloroacetic acid. The two mentioned names are often used on the same page with cancer.

  5. Hello, ‘Bob Joy’.

    You are correct. It is the dichloroacetic acid that is caustic.

    When dichloroacetate is mixed in water it turns into a mixture of dichloroacetate and dichloroacetic acid. The ratio of the two substances to each other is determined by the characteristics of the solution they’re dissolved in, with pH being the dominant parameter.

    The recipe I referenced in this post has the parameters adjusted to cause the dichloroacetic acid quantity to be minimized. It also has thiamine added to help minimize the neuropathy.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. Dear Steve,
    Thank you on behalf of all patient who may benefit from your post.
    I need the passage of how to develope the medicin mentioned above for my friend who is a liver cancer patient.
    Many thanks

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