APRIL 15, 2007
VOLUME 4 NO. 7

PATIENTS & PRACTICE

Quacks pervert U of A doc's discovery

Desperate cancer patients clamour for untested DCA "cure"


A physician's DCA experiment

One string of posts on TheDCAsite.com by a patient calling himself "Squareb" has aroused special interest. Squareb describes himself as a physician in his forties with metastatic sarcoma; he says he's taking DCA with his oncologist's blessing. Here's an excerpt:

February 27, 2007 — Day 3
I have been taking [DCA] for three days. I notice no side effects, except maybe a little lethargy, but that may be from the thiamine supplement. I am taking the sodium DCA at 1.25 mg/kg twice daily. I plan to increase it to 2.5 mg twice daily. I dissolve it in 8 ounces of water. It has a slightly salty taste that reminds me of the potassium salts they use as salt substitutes.

March 13, 2007 — Day 15
I don't think I have any significant side effects.

March 19, 2007 — Day 24
I do not think DCA does nothing. On the other hand it is not the magic bullet everyone had hoped for. It will probably be an useful adjunct to use with other chemotherapies or radiation.

Two days later, Squareb stopped taking DCA.

March 26, 2007 — Day 31
My experience with DCA's side effects really started about day 25 when I had increasing malaise and the start of tremors in my hands. Numbness in my hands started on day 27, the day after I stopped my dose of 25mg/kg twice daily. This is neuropathy from DCA. The general feeling of malaise culminated on day 29. On that day I was feeling more lousy than usual. Suddenly I felt as if my whole body was withdrawing inwards even though I was sitting motionless on the couch. I thought I was telling my last words to my wife. I have a glucometer... I drank some juice and ate some salad. The feeling started resolving within 15 minutes. I am convinced this was hypoglycemia.

March 29, 2007 — following CT scans
The tumour growth resumed at about the previous pace during the DCA treatment.... DCA may work on certain tumours or combination with other drugs, but it obviously did not work on my metastatic sarcoma tumours.

Source: www.TheDCAsite.com

Dr Evangelos Michelakis is living every researcher's worst nightmare.

The therapy he painstakingly studied, verified and re-verified, has been hijacked and risks harming the very people it was meant to heal.

Just two short months ago the University of Alberta cardiologist was on top of the world following the publication of his paper on an obscure molecule called dichloroacetate (DCA) in the journal Cancer Cell. His discovery that DCA could shrink cancer cells was instantly hailed as a long-awaited cure for the most feared of all diseases.

But disturbing reports soon overshadowed his enthusiasm. He heard that vulnerable terminal cancer patients took the proclamations a little too closely to heart and have been buying DCA over the internet and self-medicating, even though DCA hasn't yet been tested in humans.

TRY SOME, BUY SOME
Dr Michelakis' study found that DCA can shrink cells by 'reviving' cancer-affected mitochondria. This flew in the face of the long-held belief that these mitochondria were irrevocably damaged and that this damage is the result, not the cause, of the cancer.

This was an exciting discovery in itself, but Dr Michelakis warns it's been taken out of context and is being used to exploit desperate patients.

Media reports that DCA won't get developed because drug companies can't patent the molecules (this fact has been used in DCA fundraising by U of A) caused outrage from patients. There were also claims that DCA can be cheaply and easily made from components purchased from chemical suppliers (partly true) and that it has no side-effects (false). DCA has long been used to treat rare metabolic disorders in children but is known to cause peripheral neuropathy in adults.

Despite the dangers, Californian biologist-cum-huckster Jim Tassano has started selling DCA on a website called BuyDCA.com. Although the site says it's only for veterinary use, a sister site, TheDCAsite.com, openly promotes its use in humans. "He's a pest exterminator with a biology degree who's hired a chemist and is profiting from desperate people," fumed Dr Michelakis in the Edmonton Sun. "He is bypassing every regulatory principle that exists to ensure pharmaceuticals are safe and selling hope for money. It's horribly unethical."

Mr Tassano, who sells DCA for 90 cents a gram, denies he's in it for the money, saying he got involved because he wanted to save his terminally ill ballroom dance instructor's life.

TheDCAsite.com features a message board where patients recount their experiences taking DCA (sadly, most have been negative — see "A physician's DCA experiment" below). "That's the worst nightmare in medicine, to start making judgments on whether a drug is good or bad based on what any patient will post on a blog," said Dr Michelakis in the Edmonton Journal. "This is the death of medicine and organized research as we know it."

VOICES OF REASON
When the Canadian Cancer Society started being flooded with calls from patients about DCA, mostly urging them to fund research, it felt compelled to issue a warning. "It took on a life of its own," says nurse Heather Logan, the Canadian Cancer Society's director of cancer control policy, speaking from her office in Toronto. "We heard patients in end stage were mixing DCA at home and we grew increasingly concerned."

The Society is investigating the therapy's validity to see if it's worth proceeding to clinical trial. Dr Michelakis is hoping to start DCA trials in humans as early as this spring, pending Health Canada approval. In the meantime he strongly urges patients to wait for the clinical trial results.

Ms Logan is still very much intrigued by the original study. "The authors didn't overstate the findings," she says. "I hope it's a breakthrough."

 

 

back to top of page

 

 

 

 
 
© Parkhurst Publishing Privacy Statement
Legal Terms of Use
Site created by Spin Design T. (514) 995-4398