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
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
I don't think I have any significant side effects.
March 19, 2007 Day
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
March 26, 2007 Day
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
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
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.
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."
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."