There have been several reports of the use of 3-bromopyruvate as an anticancer therapy, despite (as far as I can see) a lack of any controlled human data. People occasionally bring it up in the comments here, but I’ve never written on it myself. The literature has a number of papers on its effects in cells and organisms like yeast (those are all very recent papers, and the references therein will take you to many more). The compound appears to disrupt glycolysis (as well it might) and is thus suspected to be a Warburg-effect play against tumor cell metabolism (although there could certainly be other things going on as well).
That’s not at all a crazy idea – there’s been a lot of work on the Warburg effect, and it remains a viable approach to at least some forms of cancer (although the enthusiasm in this area is definitely not what it was a few years ago). 3-bromopyruvate would seem to be a fairly vicious molecule to give a person, but that’s by the standards of regular small molecules, not by the standards of chemotherapy. (At the very least, it looks as if it would strip out your glutathione pretty handily). So overall, this looks like something that really needs some good clinical data behind it, because it might well be useful, at least in some cases.
Unfortunately, the situation has been clouded by use of 3-BP by all sorts of “cancer clinics” that cater to the desperate, so long as they have the cash. And now it seems that one of these in Germany has had three patients suddenly die after receiving the compound – here’s an article at Science on the case, and a detailed look at it (and at 3-BP) at the Science-Based Medicine blog. I should note, though, that the Science article refers to 3-BP as “part of a class of compounds known as small molecule drugs”, which is one of the least informative descriptions I’ve come across in a while. I’m not trying to bite the hand that hosts me here, but that’s a bit like referring to a Honda Civic as one of the class of four-wheeled vehicles known as automobiles.
Otherwise, though, that article is a good overview of the situation, and the Science-Based Medicine post adds even more detail. It would appear that the original report of the compound’s clinical use was, in fact, more complicated than people tend to realize, and the efficacy ascribed to 3-BP by it could well have been oversold. But that’s what further clinical work should be able to sort out (as well as sorting out other questions such as dosing protocols, which would be very important with a reactive compound like this). The proposed clinical trial apparently has no funding to go forward, though, and there appears to be legal disputes about its use, going back to the original researchers at Johns Hopkins, according to the S-B M blog post. A lawsuit was filed several years back by one of the people involved, and both they and others have filed competing patent applications, which cannot be speeding things up much.
That doesn’t stop multitudes of cancer-cure people from claiming that it’s all a conspiracy by Big Pharma to keep the miracle cure off the market. But what’s happening instead is that a potentially useful compound – not a broad-spectrum cure, by any means – is now in such a mess, thanks partly to its original proponents and partly to the alternative cancer cure folks, that it’s going to be harder than ever for anyone to find out what it can really do.