A cure for cancer?

A breast cancer cell: Photo from NIH
A breast cancer cell: Photo from NIH

A researcher at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada has discovered a drug that causes cancer cells to die, without harming healthy cells nearby. The drug, called DCA, changes the way cancer cells get energy and, as a side-effect, kills them.

According to the article:

DCA attacks a unique feature of cancer cells: the fact that they make their energy throughout the main body of the cell, rather than in distinct organelles called mitochondria…. DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells.

Crucially, though, mitochondria do another job in cells: they activate apoptosis, the process by which abnormal cells self-destruct. When cells switch mitochondria off, they become “immortal”, outliving other cells in the tumour and so becoming dominant. Once reawakened by DCA, mitochondria reactivate apoptosis and order the abnormal cells to die.

But perhaps the best thing about this news is that DCA already exists. It has been used for years to treat other diseases, so we know it’s safe to use on humans. And it is not patented – any company can make it cheaply.

The drug still has to go through rigorous testing to see how effective it really is, and what dosage and procedures work best. But if this pans out, it will be exciting news for cancer patients everywhere.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths from cancer in the US dropped for the second straight year. While cancer remains the #2 killer in America (after heart disease), doctors have seen a drop in both the rate of cancer death (the percentage of cancer patients who die from the disease) and the total number of deaths.

Together, these two items make for some very good news in the fight against cancer.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is this drug DCA available to any facility to administer? I need to know pronto


posted on Thu, 01/25/2007 - 4:22pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

We are not qualified to give medical advice here. If you have a serious medical question, please consult a qualified physician.

For more info on DCA, you can start here. Please note what they say:

"Although this indicates that DCA could some day be used in humans as a therapy against cancer, clinical trials of the effect of DCA on humans with cancer have not started yet."

posted on Fri, 01/26/2007 - 11:34am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

does this really work?

posted on Mon, 05/14/2007 - 2:45pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Here's a follow-up article that may answer some questions. Please note the following passages:

Killing cancer cells in test tubes and shrinking tumors in rats is a long way from proving that DCA will work the same way in humans. Clinical trials of DCA in thousands of patients must be done before it could be proven as an effective cancer treatment.

So, we are still a long way from knowing if this actually works in living human beings.

Cancer patients are warned not to treat themselves with this substance.... [P]revious studies have shown that it can damage nerves and cause pain in some people.

posted on Sat, 05/19/2007 - 8:22am

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