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DCA And Cancer: More Results

In early 2007 there was quite a stir caused by reports of dichloroacetate (DCA) salts as possible cancer therapies. I didn’t cover it as well as I should have here, partly because I was in the final stages of getting laid off from my previous job at the time, but here’s a good roundup from Orac while the story was going on. It appeared that dichloroacetate was quite active in a number of cancer cell lines, where it worked by some sort of metabolic disruption pathway, quite possibly involving the Warburg effect through inhibition of mitochondrial PDHK. In short form, what that means is that some of these tumors stop using glucose exclusively as an energy source, and divert more of it into other pathways where it’s used as a feedstock for the synthesis of other biomolecules. That allows the cells to get by on less oxygen (since the traditional glucose pathways use up a fair amount), which is particularly important in a solid tumor. This is also tied with with a resistance to apoptosis (programmed cell death), so it makes a pretty good package, if you’re a tumor cell. But it does leave them metabolically vulnerable, and there have been attempts over the years to target this. (The latest idea in the area is a kinase called PKM2, a good candidate for the key switch that turns on the whole Warburg effect).
The news sent a lot of people searching for their own sources of dichloroacetic acid, and also was the occasion for a lot of “Unpatentable Cancer Wonder Drug Ignored By Big Pharma” commentary, which is always enjoyable. A new paper is now out in Science Translational Medicine looking at DCA in glioblastoma. That’s a good place to look, because aggressive solid tumors of that sort are probably the most vulnerable to a Warburg-effect strategy. The authors found that mitochondia from glioblastoma tissue isolated from a number of patients do indeed show the signs of altered metabolism, which DCA reversed in cell culture. And they present the results of treating 5 patients over a period of months with oral DCA therapy.
How’d it work? They were able to compare pre- and post-therapy tissue samples in only three of the patients, but all three showed signs that more cells were undergoing apoptosis, slowing the growth of the tumors. So this wasn’t an amazing cancer-disappears result, but it definitely keeps the story going. Three patients is not enough to draw robust conclusions from, of course, and they did see some (reversible) neuropathy as a side effect, but I’d say that DCA is still worth looking into on a larger scale.
Should cancer patients just up and take it themselves? It’s really hard to recommend that, since we still don’t know a lot about what’s going on with the stuff. But it’s also hard to tell someone with a refractory solid tumor not to try whatever they can get their hands on.
Update: more from Orac, including details of all five patients treated in this study.

44 comments on “DCA And Cancer: More Results”

  1. blah says:

    excellent post Derek. If someone were to think of the best uses of blogs, this type of post should be a prime example of how blogs can have some wonderful impact on those with bio/chem background AND the average reader.
    I agree that someone who has refractory solid tumor should be given the chance to try anything possible even if it’s not FDA approved.

  2. David Young says:

    Stephen Lippard and Shanta Dhar, at MIT took an ingenious approach by combinging DCA with cisplatin to make Mitaplatin, two molecules of DCA covalently bound to one molecule of cisplatin. Supposedly the agent dissociates in the cancer cell to a reactive platinum species and two molecules of DCA and act synergistically (or perhaps additively) to kill the cancer cell. Early studies in progress.

  3. Andy Advani says:

    I began to use DCA recently but unfortunately the source I was getting it from has been closed probably for political reasons>Can you recommend a source I can get DCA in pure form?I am running out of DCA and I would really appreciate any information you can provide me.I wish to thank you in advance and look forward to hearing from you ASAP–Andy Advani

  4. alig says:

    I would be wary of buying DCA for personal use from a questionable supplier. The mono-chloroacetic acid is quite toxic and the monofluoroacetic acid is one of the common rat poisons.

  5. Hap says:

    I didn’t think it was common any more (sodium fluoroacetate is 1080) – rat poisons with high toxicities and no antidotes are ungood.

  6. Sili says:

    At least this sounds like it might be working – unlike so many of the other woo woo alternatives out there.
    I’ll not be holding my breath, though.

  7. blah says:

    Rat poison is not unlike many other anti-cancer agents

  8. Harry says:

    As far as fluoroacetate rat poisons are concerned, I believe that all the EPA registrations for that have been cancelled. The was some use for coyote poison a long while back, but I think that’s gone as well.
    Back when I was involved in making and selling the stuff, the biggest pesticide use was for rabbits and opossums in New Zealand.
    The ethyl fluoroacetate was used in manufacturing 5-fluorouracil, but I believe that’s been superceded as well. The last US manufacturer of SFA (1080) was Tull Chemicals in Alabama, and they may be out of business as well.

  9. Luke Weston says:

    If we start to see people self-medicating with things like DCA from Dawkins-only-knows-where, I fear we might see something similar to the 2006 case where a guy did a bit of reading of various “alternative health” resources on the Web and self-administered ~10g of sodium selenite, which quite rapidly killed him.

  10. blah says:

    Your fear is not someone else’s problem. If somebody chooses to take something that they feel will make them live, then who are you to say that they don’t have that right. Sure, this guy died from this. But in the case of refractory solid tumor, won’t the person die anyway? Not to be cliche, but at least they can die trying.

  11. Design Monkey says:

    took an ingenious approach by combinging DCA with cisplatin to make Mitaplatin, two molecules of DCA covalently bound to one molecule of cisplatin.
    Uuuh. “me too” cisplatin and quite probably not really better one than original cisplatin, or original cisplatin plus optimally dosed DCA not in one molecule.
    The usual activity problem – doses for DCA seems to be quite a bit higher than that of cisplatin, so trying to stuff both of them in one molecule, results in incomplete level of DCA activity, if staying at doses where cisplatin toxicity is acceptable.

  12. CMCguy says:

    #4 alig and a couple others bring up good point that there needs to be a “pharmaceutical” grade to monitor and define acceptable limits of impurities in pursuit of DCA treatments. I have seen side reaction from chloral in TFA and suspect DCA could have similar species present (in fact doubtful but could such an impurity be the active involved?). Even simply things can get very complicated when attempt to use in people especially when FDA gets involved.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Check out the route to funding this installment of the DCA/cancer story:

  14. blah says:

    thanks for the link Anonymous…
    after reading a few of the comments on the website, you can see why cancer patients should be the one who decide what they try or don’t try as their treatment. here’s a sampling:
    “My mother died at the age of 49 in 1995 of glioblastoma multiforme. Two surgeries, chemo, and radiation only slowed it long enough for her to have 10 good months, and 2 months of absolute unadulterated hell.
    She would have volunteered for this study in a heartbeat, human testing ethics be damned. The infinitisimal chance of survival would have been only a minor reason….to further human knowledge and maybe facilitate a better outcome for other patients would have been motivation enough.
    This cancer eats your brain, strips you of your memories and cognitive function, and forces you to endure obscene pain. My mother, in the quiet of the night, used to beg us to kill her. Beg us.”

  15. David Young says:

    There is a problem with the Edmonton News Report. It reads…. In four of the glioblastoma patients, researchers saw no further brain cancer growth 15 months after initial treatment. Does that mean initial chemotherapy and radiation or initial treatment with DCA. Probably the former. Almost all patients get treated with surgery (often suboptimal) followed by radiation with Temodar chemotherapy. They are then likely to stay in remission for a number of months, sometimes quite a long number of months and often it is difficult to know exactly when they have progression of disease. So, taking DCA during that period of time could give the impression of holding the disease in check whereas the patient just had a good response to surgery/radiation/chemotherapy. All of us would be much more impressed if a patient had definite progression of disease and then put on DCA and then noticing demonstrable regression of tumor.

  16. Rob says:

    I have been using DCA since last May 21st for metastatic colon cancer. No other chemo. The first two CT scans after May 21st showed significant reductions in tumor size and the last four have shown no change. A year after discovering a rapid growing set of large tumors I remain symptom free and have raised my dosage back to my initial dosage to see if I can get another tumor reduction. I think the DCA is working and the latest oncologist I saw agrees.

  17. Hanna says:

    Hi Rob,
    Would you please share the dosage of DCA that you used? Did you take other medicine? My father also has mCRC and we decided to let him try CDA.
    Thank you so much!!

  18. Rob says:

    I started out at one gram per day, I weigh around 190. I have been at 2 grams a day and now have upped it to 3 grams a day. That is for five days and them two weeks off. I don’t have any rationale for this other than to avoid peripheral neuropathy which I have. And after stopping DCA the neuropathy continues to increase for a week. I take 300 to 500 mg of B-l plus a B Complex to counter this also.
    Look at theDCAsite for far better dosage info than from me.
    While I give all the credit for my stable cancer to DCA because that is all I took in the beginning when I had the actual reductions in tumor size and also when I took it for the longest periods, 20 days without a break and when I developed PN, I now take a lot of other things.
    Metformin 200 mg
    Artemisinin one gram
    Artesunate 100 mg
    Fish Oil 7 grams
    Vit D3 4000 iu
    EGCG for its caffeine
    Again no symptoms, feel fine, ride my bike. My oncologist hear nothing in my lungs. It is a bit unreal since on average I am supposed to be dead having had no standard chemo.
    Resection in 12/06
    Diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer 4/09
    Six CT scans since but no treatment since at leading, number one or two, cancer hospital.
    Accepted for Phase One clinical trial last month but am waiting for later, higher dose, cohort in Oct or Dec.
    Being considered for another Phase One trial.
    Have been seen by four oncologist at three major hospitals and a medical group.
    No doctor has agreed to work with me and DCA but there are doctors who will. Check it out.

  19. David Young says:

    Well, Rob, it is stories like that that make one want to take a closer look at DCA. The most compelling information, if I have it right, is that your tumors regressed while on DCA and while on nothing but DCA. I presume that this happened over a course of a few months, and then the regression slowed down, but you continued to have stable disease. In other words there was never any progression of disease while on DCA.
    A little more information would be helpful. Where were the tumor nodules seen that you indicate have regressed? If there were clear cut nodules in the liver, generally more than one, and one consistently noted that all of these regressed (perhaps to different degrees) on serial CT scans, I would be impressed that something (in this case, the DCA) had caused this regression. and presumable with limited and tolerable side effects (you indicate that peripheral neuropathy is a troublesome side effect at times.)
    Was your CEA blood test initially elevated? And did it lessen while on DCA? … and consistently lessen? (perhaps to a lesser degree later on). And did it stay low and stable after that? (Not all metastatic colon cancer produces CEA, but many do.)
    As an oncologist, I would be impressed and excited by DCA if I noticed such responses in one of my patients. I would think that almost all oncologists would be impressed if they saw regression of cancer with DCA being the only treatment. (And somewhat impressed if one could maintain a remission with DCA, if that remission was for, say,… 4, or 5 months or more.
    You are not on any maintenance Avastin, or Xeloda pills (you didn’t mention anything else.

  20. Roland Perry says:

    Tuesday , December 08, 2009 13:29ET
    By Fain Hughes,
    Viral Genetics (VRAL) has entered into an exclusive license agreement with the University of Colorado to develop cancer therapies based on the work of M. Karen Newell, Ph. D., a professor of biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. This new line of research into a means of killing drug-resistant cancer cells will be pursued by scientists at MetaCytolytics, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Viral Genetics.
    Newell has discovered a process called “metabolic disruption technology” (MDT) that blocks invasive cells’ ability to generate energy from sugars or fatty acids. In essence, MDT “starves” cancer cells, causing them to die. As proof of principle, Newell’s team at the University of Colorado has performed over 400 metabolic disruption technology experiments in vitro and in animal models.
    According to Newell, MDT is expected to be combined with traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

  21. rob says:

    Nothing but DCA and what I listed. No progression last 8 months, two regressions in the first four months. total now approaching 13 months. No weight loss, good appetite.
    Hylar tumor originally 4×3.6 cm now 3×2 something cm. Nodule in right upper lung always at 2×2 cm but looks broken up to me in last CT scan.
    Here is a recent UK study of colon cancer and DCA that looks promising.

  22. rob says:

    CEA level was originally 13 reduced to 6 and stayed stable on DCA till CT scan before last at 8. Last CT scan I don’t know.

  23. PBS says:

    Hi Rob,
    Have just started DCA this week having been diagnosed with lung cancer 3 weeks ago. Primary tumour is 10x10x6 cm and hilar mets 7×8. Still awaiting pathology after two biopsies but my onc refuses to treat with chemo unless I drop the DCA. Am considering this, but am disapointed in her lack of open mindedness.
    In the meantime, can you tell me if you’re taking capsules or powder? I’m currently breaking open the capsules my chemist put together and mixing in water before drinking, but if this is a step I can avoid, I certainly will…

  24. Hanna says:

    Rob—thank you so much for your very detailed information! It took us a while to get DCA and my father just started with it. I am keeping my fingers crossed…

  25. Dave says:

    I read this post and then read the update at the end of the post “More From Orac”. The thing that blows my mind here (“thing” being that the FDA is holding back DCA until proper trials) is that what we are talking about here is cancer – and in many cases terminal cancer. We are not talking about some illness which we might already have a workable solution like diabetes or bad breath. We’re talking about something that will kill you, and kill you rather quickly and painfully. So, so what if someone who is going to die takes a shot in the dark on a hope and prayer to try and cure themselves. So what if the drug they take kills them, because afterall they’re going to die anyways and it may as well be a result of their own doing. So what if a drug hasn’t gone thru medical trials. Lets just consider these people a phase 0, 1,2,3, whatever subject. These pencil necks in the powers that be cannot think beyond their happy little bureaucratic model. Its called “thinking out of the box”. My cousin swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills because there was no hope for his cancer. So if instead he experimented on himself with DCA, would that have been any worse????

  26. Rob says:

    I am taking a powder. Don’t think it makes a difference though, could be wrong.
    It has been almost 13 months now and I can accurately say that I have taken 140 grams of DCA so far at a cost of $125.
    And Medicare has not been paying for DCA or any of the supplements I am taking. They do pay for the CT scans at around $4000 a pop.
    Went on Medicare June 1st last year, one month after being diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer.

  27. Alison says:

    hi Rob and others
    Can you tell me where you are sourcing your DCA? My husband has a v aggressive brain tumour which has progressed in spite of surgery and radiotherapy. He’s currently on TMZ (2nd cycle just started) and we want to use DCA as well.
    It seems v confusing as to whether you could buy from a chemical co (Sigma Aldrich sell it with the proviso that it’s for lab use, not human consumption – but they do point out that what they sell is what was used at the Uni of Alberta!), or whether this has to be refined in some way.
    And it’s a bit scary just buying at random off the internet!
    Any advice would be deeply appreciated.

  28. Alison says:

    PS we’re in the UK.

  29. ellen s says:

    Hi everyone we live in Sydney
    Husband diagnosed with thalamic tumor in January waiting to see iif progressed to do a biopsy because biopsy in the thalamic area can cause many more problems. MRI at the end of June shown progression to left temp. lobe and possible spread to right and frontal . He is in hospital awaiting results from biopsy ( in temp. lobe) in order to start radio and chemo ASAP. Does anyone know the results from phase 1 trials on DCA ? anyone with similar problems?
    Hard to obtain DCA in Sydney. Doctors are as close minded as in any other western country.

  30. Pat says:

    I started in DCA for Stage I breast cancer on July 16th, and purchase it from the UK (I live in the U.S.). A Naturopathic Doctor in Spain who runs the Budwig Center suggested this as a reliable source:
    Took about 11 calendar days to get to me, which I didn’t think was bad.
    I probably won’t be back to this site so if anyone has a question, send it direct to me:

  31. dustin says:

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading about DCA and the possible benefits on brain tumours and I can tell you all this… wife was diagnosed with a tumour on her cerebellum and because we are lucky enough to be living in Alberta AND because she met all the requirements, she was included in the U of A trials. With that said, she had NO surgery and NO chemo or radiation….she was only given DCA and some vitamines and after two months her scan revealed that it shrunk by 20% and two weeks later it revealed that that little piece of hell in her head was stopped in its tracks!She is too continue this treatment until November and than we will see whats next….

  32. dustin says:

    I would also like to add this…
    SHAME ON YOU ALBERTANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
    We are the RICHEST city in Canada and yet these reserchers at the U of A are funding most of this research ON THEIR OWN!!!!!!!!!
    We like too roll around in our big gas gullping pick-ups, bragging about big oil money and pissing away money arguing over “should we get rid of our secod airport” AND the CURE FOR CANCER IS IN OUR OWN BACK YARD!?!?!?!?!
    Help put us in the history books as the red necks who cured cancer!
    Maybe sell the oilers?! They aren’t doing much for us anyway!!

  33. 1lunker says:

    Or someone else, please illuminate the following?
    DCA taken through GI/oral consumption presents some unanswered questions. FIrst, what becomes of dca upon introduction to hydrochloric acid? That should be pretty easy to answer, although I don’t have the answer. My intuition here is this; by consuming vinegar with salt, you’ll provide your body with the same building blocks, to influence these pathways you speak of, as the powder, “DCA – sodium salt of 2 chlorine and 1 acetic acid”. Salt with vinegar = acetic acid+chlorine+vinegar. COuld it be that simple. Cut salt from other parts of diet and simply do some salt, vinegar shots. Any thoughts here? Last summer, there was a movie out called ____? In the Divinci Code, the cypher is Apple, so as to not break the casing and expose the scroll to vinegar.
    Anyone thoughts on DCM – dichloromalate?

  34. 1lunker says:

    Or someone else, please illuminate the following?
    DCA taken through GI/oral consumption presents some unanswered questions. FIrst, what becomes of dca upon introduction to hydrochloric acid? That should be pretty easy to answer, although I don’t have the answer. My intuition here is this; by consuming vinegar with salt, you’ll provide your body with the same building blocks, to influence these pathways you speak of, as the powder, “DCA – sodium salt of 2 chlorine and 1 acetic acid”. Salt with vinegar = acetic acid+chlorine+vinegar. COuld it be that simple. Cut salt from other parts of diet and simply do some salt, vinegar shots. Any thoughts here? Last summer, there was a movie out called ____? In the Divinci Code, the cypher is Apple, so as to not break the casing and expose the scroll to vinegar.
    Anyone thoughts on DCM – dichloromalate?

  35. LRT says:

    I have been taking DCA for my Aggressive Fibromatosis, a cancer like invasive affliction that is caused by trauma , also known as Desmoid tumors. It had grown through my sternum and infiltrated my ribs, and was causing complications with my esophagus, and vagas nerve. I elected NOT to allow western medicine doctors to cut me up and poison and irradiate me. My lesions and tumors are dissolving and have all reduced in size by 40% in 7 months of treatment of only 20 mg every other day. It does cause mild pain in the lesions and tumors as they vascularize prior to dissolution, but compared to what my recommended course of treatment was (wide resection of affected tissue, along with chemotherapy and radiation) I don’t mind a little pain. I got mine at the dca store dot com. Anyone who speaks out against DCA or anything else that works for desperate people who are dying anyway, obviously aren’t faced with the hopeless feeling of anyone with cancer- otherwise they would have an open mind and be willing to try something outside the parameters of Holy Western Medicine’s accepted Dogma regarding oncological treatment. Good Luck. I am posting because DCA is saving me as I write this. I feel compelled to share-especially since it might save someone from suffering horrible death or barbaric treatments or surgeries. What if there were a miracle cure for some types of cancer.?Should we keep it a secret?

  36. Merran says:

    Can anyone tell me if DCA is Ok to use concurrently with Chemotherapy. I am currently on Doxyrubicin after further spreading of metastatic breast cancer.
    I am keen to try DCA and have a friend in South Australia who is using it now with some rather promising results.
    Thank you

  37. Mary says:

    I have an aggressive, rare kidney cancer. The cancer progressed while on Cisplatin/Gemzar. My oncologist has me starting Sutent in a couple of days, which at best, might slow the cancer. I am considering DCA and must decide soon. Does anyone know if you can use it with this drug?

  38. Danilo says:

    I think we need an urgent research about the four PDK isoenzymes: which Laboratory or University is doing that?
    “We hypothesized that DCA may have differential effects on hypoxic versus normoxic colorectal cancer cells, and found that while some cell lines are refractory to DCA’s effects, most colorectal cancer cells examined actually displayed enhanced survival under hypoxic conditions in the presence of DCA. Consistent with this, DCA treated xenografts showed no anti-tumor effect but instead there was enhanced growth of treated tumors. Our findings suggest that DCA may have differential effects on cancer cell survival depending on the regional microenvironment within treated tumors, which may complicate its usefulness as an adjuvant anti-cancer therapy.” (Sodium dichloroacetate (DCA) reduces apoptosis in colorectal tumor hypoxia, ).
    “Thus, although DCA inhibits growth of a variety of cancer cells, the effect and the underlying mechanisms seem to be cell-type dependent. A likely explanation for these differential effects could be the difference in expression of the PDK isoenzymes in the cancer cells examined. Dichloroacetate is a non-specific inhibitor of PDK (Whitehouse and Randle, 1973), and has a different Ki for each of the four PDK isoenzymes (Bowker-Kinley et al, 1998). In addition, the four PDK isoenzymes are known to be differentially expressed in various tissues. Thus, there is a need to develop inhibitors to the individual PDK isoenzymes that should allow cancer cell-type-specific metabolic manipulation.” (Dichloroacetate induces apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest in colorectal cancer cells. , )

  39. jacqueline says:

    need DCA, information my mom has stage 1v pancreatic cancer… will this meds word…need help me soon!!!!!

  40. Navin says:


  41. Eve says:

    We are uk based. My mum has stage 4 lung cancer. We are thinking if buying dca but are afraid if the source as can only get it via the net??? Help please!!!!

  42. Eve says:

    We are uk based. My mum has stage 4 lung cancer. We are thinking of buying dca but are afraid of the source as can only get it via the net??? Help please!!!!

  43. Eve says:

    We are uk based. My mum has stage 4 lung cancer. We are thinking of buying dca but are afraid of the source as can only get it via the net??? Help please!!!!

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