More Canadian press leads me to put up another post on dichloroacetate (DCA), the inhibitor of mitochondrial aerobic glycolysis that is being promoted as a freely-available cancer “cure.” Like many compounds tested in animal models of human cancer, DCA treatment reduces the size of human lung tumors grown in rats, but is far from a cure. Any other similar drug would be just one of hundreds jockeying for investment by drug companies large and small and might not even be competitive enough for entry into clinical trials. However, DCA is a bulk chemical that is largely available freely and is being promoted aggressively by the operators of buydca.com who deceptively promote the chemical “for veterinary use only.”
The interesting angle I read on this story comes from last week’s National Review of Medicine (Canada) in a story entitled, “Quacks pervert U of A doc’s discovery,” by Gillian Woodford. The short article is presented from the standpoint of the excellent Canadian cardiology researcher, Dr Evangelos Michelakis, who expanded his work on mitochondrial metabolism from cardiac ischemia to altered mitochondrial function in cancer.
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.
The article goes on to discuss what Woodford calls, “Californian biologist-cum-huckster Jim Tassano,” who operates the “veterinary” buydca.com site and thedcasite.com, the latter where human use of DCA is discussed and promoted in a series of forums.
“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.”
It’s amazing to be reminded that the original Cancer Cell paper from the Michelakis team didn’t even contain the word “dichloroacetate” in the title – the focus was on the concept of altering mitochondrial energetics in cancer. DCA was used as a tool at very, very high concentrations (0.5 mM in cell culture) to inhibit an enzyme called pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK2), an effect that was also duplicated using small interfering RNA against the enzyme’s mRNA. The net result was the increase in the expression of a
mitochondrial plasma membrane potassium channel (Kv1.5) whose action pushes cancer cells toward programmed cell death, or apoptosis. DCA only shrinks delays growth of tumors in animals and is by no means a “cure.”
The excitement about this work is that this compound acts via a mechanism distinct from other chemotherapeutic drugs and seems deserving of investigation in clinical trials. The University of Alberta is accepting donations to begin a phase I clinical trial in cancer as a corporate sponsor has not yet been identified. (A Canadian company, CardioMetabolics, Inc., is currently testing the compound for various cardiac indications but has yet to get involved in the cancer realm.)
But from a researcher’s standpoint, it must be very disconcerting to see one’s work take on a life of its own through hucksterism and misrepresentation because of the nature of the compound studied. As my colleague, Orac, and I have stated before, there are serious concerns that public experimentation with DCA may taint the promise of the agent such that it will carry a stigma going into clinical trials and that investigators will simply view it as another quack medicine. I’m certain that the intentions of Dr Michelakis are far more
nobel noble and that he holds out hope the the potential good of DCA will not be tarnished by quacks trying to capitalize prematurely on his excellent science.
My previous posts on DCA:
The dichloroacetate (DCA) cancer kerfuffle
Where to buy dichloroacetate…
Local look at dichloroacetate (DCA) hysteria
Edmonton pharmacist asked to stop selling dichloroacetate (DCA)
Four days, four dichloroacetate (DCA) newspaper articles
More health news from Canada
DCA posts by fellow ScienceBlogger, Orac:
In which my words will be misinterpreted as “proof” that I am a “pharma shill”
Will donations fund dichloroacetate (DCA) clinical trials?
Too fast to label others as “conspiracy-mongers”?
Dichloroacetate: One more time…
Laying the cluestick on DaveScot over dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
A couple of more cluesticks on dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
Where to buy dichloroacetate (DCA)? Dichloroacetate suppliers, even?
An uninformative “experiment” on dichloroacetate
Slumming around The DCA Site (TheDCASite.com), appalled at what I’m finding
Slumming around The DCA Site (TheDCASite.com), the finale (for now)
It’s nice to be noticed
The deadly deviousness of the cancer cell, or how dichloroacetate (DCA) might fail
The dichloroacetate (DCA) self-medication phenomenon hits the mainstream media
Dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer: Magical thinking versus Tumor Biology 101
Checking in with The DCA Site