Cheap, 'safe' drug kills most cancers

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by universaltrader, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. Found this article on digg

    * Updated 16:33 21 February 2007
    * From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
    * Andy Coghlan

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    What makes cancer cells different - and how to kill them
    Enlarge image
    What makes cancer cells different - and how to kill them

    New Scientist has received an unprecedented amount of interest in this story from readers. If you would like up-to-date information on any plans for clinical trials of DCA in patients with cancer, or would like to donate towards a fund for such trials, please visit the site set up by the University of Alberta and the Alberta Cancer Board. We will also follow events closely and will report any progress as it happens.

    It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

    It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

    Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

    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. This process, called glycolysis, is inefficient and uses up vast amounts of sugar.

    Until now it had been assumed that cancer cells used glycolysis because their mitochondria were irreparably damaged. However, Michelakis’s experiments prove this is not the case, because DCA reawakened the mitochondria in cancer cells. The cells then withered and died (Cancer Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.ccr.2006.10.020).

    Michelakis suggests that the switch to glycolysis as an energy source occurs when cells in the middle of an abnormal but benign lump don’t get enough oxygen for their mitochondria to work properly (see diagram). In order to survive, they switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy through glycolysis.

    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.

    “The results are intriguing because they point to a critical role that mitochondria play:

    they impart a unique trait to cancer cells that can be exploited for cancer therapy,” says Dario Altieri, director of the University of Massachusetts Cancer Center in Worcester.

    The phenomenon might also explain how secondary cancers form. Glycolysis generates lactic acid, which can break down the collagen matrix holding cells together. This means abnormal cells can be released and float to other parts of the body, where they seed new tumours.

    DCA can cause pain, numbness and gait disturbances in some patients, but this may be a price worth paying if it turns out to

    be effective against all cancers. The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

    Paul Clarke, a cancer cell biologist at the University of Dundee in the UK, says the findings challenge the current assumption that mutations, not metabolism, spark off cancers. “The question is: which comes first?” he says.
  2. Mvic


  3. Indeed, I think we really need to be spending money on a possible cure for cancer! I mean that would be the best thing to happen. But, a lot of conspiracy theorists may say that they don't want a cure or whatever...
  4. Hey, this latest greatest fad is so interesting, it deserves it's own spot in Chitty Chat, not Economics.

    Graphic from the New Scientist article at thread start:

    Another article:

    Patients buying illegal cancer drug
    United Press International, 03-30-07

    NEW YORK, Mar 29, 2007 (UPI via COMTEX) -- Terminally ill cancer patients in the United States and Europe are reportedly turning to the Internet for an experimental cancer drug.

    The journal Nature says the compound dichloroacetate -- DCA -- has been found to shrink tumors in rats without causing any apparent side effects. It has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    Nature said it could take years for a clinical trial in humans to be completed, and many cancer patients say they can't wait that long. Researchers, however, fear the drug could have unanticipated side effects.

    A California man is selling homemade DCA labeled for veterinary use, but he said he is sure people are buying it for themselves. He has also created a Web site where people can report their results with the drug.

    Researchers say the cancer patients could end up undermining efforts to do a controlled clinical trial if some people develop harmful side effects.

  5. Yes, this is extremely interesting to me. If this is true this would be one of the greatest discoveries in a long time. If that picture is right then great.
  6. "pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines."

    Im sick of hearing about this conspiracy crap.

    Does aspirin have a patent? Does Bayer make zero money on aspirin? They why the hell do they sell it?

    Of course you can make money on any medicine that cures cancer, patent or no patent.
  7. Im with you. People will want to try anything to cure it.
  8. Can't 'terminal' patients pay to take part in the clinical trial?(According to their finances).It will just be Americans rather than uninformed and desperate Indians.
  9. DCA is a potent inhibitor of glycolysis. The drug has merit, but is carcinogenic in large doses. In therapeutic doses it's entirely safe and efficacious.
    #10     Apr 3, 2007