Cheap Drug Kills Cancer. Tough.

Really. A cheap, safe drug that kills almost all cancers is available. Better yet, the drug—a simple, small molecule called dichloroacetate (DCA)—offers a radical new approach to treating all forms of disease. But you may never be able to get it because,'s a simple, small molecule. No drug company is willing to fund costly trials because it's an old drug that's not patentable, so they can't make money from it.

Normal cells rely on specialized organelles called mitocondria to supply their energy. Cancer cells switch to a process called glycolosis which takes places in the body of the cell. It's an inefficient process used by baceteria, and even marathon runners, when oxygen is in short supply.

Way back in 1930, biochemist Otto Warburg discovered this process—now known as the Warburg Effect—but until recently it was considered an effect of cancer not a cause. But a University of Alberta researcher, Evangelos Michaelakis, found that DCA caused cancer cells to die and tumors to shrink with no known side effects.

Hopefully a partnership between governments, charities and commercial firms will find a way to produce the first apparently real cure for cancer.



weiqingchun said…
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TabAtkins said…
I take some offense to this entry. It's implying some heavy Big Pharma conspiracy theory sort of stuff.

The fact is, DCA hasn't been proven to do anything in humans yet. There is a long history of anti-cancer drugs that showed a lot of promise in animals but did very little in humans. We don't yet know what category DCA fits in. It may be useless, it may turn out to be a wide-spectrum cancer killer, or it may simply be useful against certain types of human cancer.

But come on. Big Pharma suppressing the chemical from being produced because they won't make enough money? Have you ever *heard* of generic drugs? Dude, your blog is awesome - I discovered it today and have been surfing through the archives, but that assertion is ridiculous and just feeds into conspiracy theorists' demented fantasies.
Tom said…
You're the second person to make such a comment—a coauthor here, Paul, said the same thing. I certainly didn't mean to imply a conspiracy, but rather economic realities. In retrospect, I suspect the title set the tone, poorly.

I stand by my view, though, that the economics of testing such a drug make it problematic for a for-profit entity, thus a consortium of government, education, and industry will be required to roll it out if the efficacy is proven.

But I could be wrong. You sound like you must work for a drug company, so if you can shed more light on the issue that would be great!
Tom said…
For more on the economics of generic drub manufacture visit this site:
Tom said…
That first removed comment, by the way, was simply spam.
Tom said…
Also, Wikipedia reports:

Reports in the lay press after the 2007 University of Alberta announcement claim that dichloroacetate "has actually been used safely in humans for decades",[16] but the limited scholarly literature suggests side effects of pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients.[16] A clinical trial where DCA was given to patients of MELAS (a form of genetically inherited lactic acidosis) at 25 mg/kg/day was ended prematurely due to excessive peripheral nerve toxicity.[17] Dichloroacetate can also have anxiolytic or sedative effects.[18]
Animal studies suggest that the neuropathy and neurotoxicity during chronic dichloroacetate treatment may be partly due to depletion of thiamine, and thiamine supplementation in rats reduced these effects.[19] However, more recent studies in humans suggest that peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect during chronic DCA treatment, even with coadministration of oral thiamine.[20][21] An additional study reported that 50 mg/kg/day DCA treatment resulted in unsteady gait and lethargy in two patients, with symptoms occurring after one month for one patient and two months for the second. Gait disturbance and consciousness were recovered with cessation of DCA, however sensory nerve action potentials did not recover in one month.[22]
Anonymous said…
I have gbm. Who knows, this could be the wonder drug cure we all seek. But something seems very fishy. All the positive DCA blurbs, seem to be written by a slick marketing and pr firm, not Dr's, or researchers. Additionally, none of these positive DCA blurbs that I've run across have a name or email attached to the post. Just because a TV news program will air a story, that doesn't mean a thing.

Remember, There's a ton of $$$ to be made in the cancer trade. I don't want to “Dis” DCA, I'm not a doctor. Something about the DCA introduction to the cancer community just don't smell right.
Tom said…
"Just because a TV news program will air a story, that doesn't mean a thing. "

Boy, you've got THAT right!

But the original post was prompted by reports that Michaelakis at the Univ of Alberta found that DCA caused cancer cells to die or shrink with no side effects. That made me say, "Wow! Really?"

The rest of the story, how it plays out, certainly remains to be seen. The effect was in rats, after all, as an earlier commenter here properly points out.

Meanwhile, if anyone has seen The DCA Site, check it out at

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