New Scientist quickly backpedaled on this story in an attempt to minimize the efficacy of the unpatented chemical DCA (see Update). -Ed.
, Mar. 29, 2012
It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.
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.
Update: Cancer drug resurfaces and threatens false optimism
Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloroacetate
Fox News, May 18, 2011
One of Salk’s admirers is Evangelos Michelakis, a cancer researcher at the University of Alberta who, three years ago, discovered that a common, nontoxic chemical known as DCA, short for dichloroacetate, seems to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors in mice. Michelakis’ initial findings garnered much fanfare at the time and have recirculated on the Web again this week, in large part because of a blog post (“Scientists cure cancer, but no one takes notice”) that ignited fresh debate with people wondering if it was true.
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. The preliminary work in rodents, cell cultures, and small trials on humans points to DCA as being a powerful cancer treatment.
Like Jonas Salk, Michelakis hasn’t patented his discovery. It’s not because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t. When it comes to patents, DCA really is like the sun: It’s a cheap, widely used chemical that no one can own. In today’s world, such drugs don’t readily attract funding.