DCA: Cancer Breakthrough or Urban Legend?

To demonstrate the concept, the authors in the current report did a number of experiments that came to the conclusion that DCA was, in fact, effective in meeting the goals of their expectations.

In these experiments in the laboratory, they found that DCA could reverse the abnormal metabolism in several laboratory-based cancer cell lines. DCA also reversed the "immortality" of these test tube cancer cells by inducing apoptosis -- a process of natural cell death.

Finally, they injected some of these laboratory-based cancer cell lines into rats who were genetically engineered to have no basic immune system, and found that if they put DCA into their drinking water, the tumor growth was significantly slower than in a comparison group of rats that did not receive DCA.

In one group of rats where DCA was given after the injected tumors had been allowed to grow, the tumors immediately (in the authors' words) decreased in size.

So far, so good.

But here is where things begin to get a bit dicey.

These are quotes taken directly from the article. The first is from a summary printed at the bottom of the first page of the report:

"The ease of delivery, selectivity, and effectiveness make DCA an attractive candidate for proapoptotic cancer therapy which can be rapidly translated into phase II-III clinical trials."

In the discussion section of the paper, the authors conclude with the following statement:

"Our work … offers a tantalizing suggestion that DCA may have selective anticancer efficacy in patients. The very recent report of the first randomized long-term clinical trial of oral DCA in children with congenital lactic acidosis (at doses similar to those used in our in vivo experiments) showing that DCA was well tolerated and safe (Stacpoole et al., 2006) suggests a potentially easy translation of our work to clinical oncology." (Emphasis mine)

In other words, the authors are saying that in their opinion these experiments in the lab and rats suggests that DCA may be a simple, effective treatment for cancer and we should move forward with clinical trials based solely on their theory and their results.

I am not being critical of the authors' comments, except for describing this as a "potentially easy" process. Nothing in translation from the bench to the bedside is easy.

This is not the first time such suggestive statements have been made. In fact, these types of comments are not unusual in papers of this type.

What I am critical of is the lack of discrimination in judgment of other folks -- not the researchers -- who have picked up on these lines and rapidly circulated the thought that we have a cure for cancer at hand, and that we must stop doing everything else and get this simple, safe and effective treatment to cancer patients immediately.

Even my own blog was "hit" with such a suggestion this past week.

Well, as they say, if I had a nickel for every time I heard such a proposition based on this type of evidence, I would be a rich man.

The Facts About DCA

Please try to understand that I am not saying this is a theory that won't work. It may, and if it does prove valuable, that would be terrific.

It is just that I have been around a while and have seen this type of hope and hype just a few times too many.

I have seen cancer patients' hopes lifted and dashed so often that I can't help but be cautious and conservative in my thinking.

Let's take a look at what we can say.

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