DCA (dichloroacetate) Frequently Asked Questions— WebFAQ updated Oct 20, 2011
Medicor Cancer Centres was the first cancer clinic in North America to begin prescribing DCA “off label” to cancer patients under the full supervision of a medical team. We have consulted with the relevant regulatory bodies in Canada and are following their guidelines and policies. We would like to thank everyone who has expressed an interest in our DCA therapy. We appreciate your feedback and encouragement. We would also like to acknowledge and extend a special thanks to two of our patients who brought DCA to our attention, and motivated us to begin DCA treatments.
In 2007 it was discovered that the drug DCA (dichloroacetate sodium) induced the death of human breast, lung and brain cancer cells that were implanted into rats, while being non-toxic to healthy cells. This research was published in Cancer Cell, 11, 37–51, January 2007. DCA has been found to kill cancer cells by a newly discovered mechanism that appears to be common to several types of cancer. DCA works by turning on the natural cell suicide system which is suppressed in cancerous cells, thus allowing them to die on their own. It also alters the cancer cell’s use of glucose, starving the cell of energy.
Newer research shows that DCA also kills many other types of cancer cells, and can boost the cancer-killing effects of radiation. The first formal human cancer research using DCA was published in May 2010. It confirmed that DCA is an effective anti-cancer drug for treating glioblastoma patients (Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloroacetate, Science Translational Medicine, Vol 2, Issue 31).
Further research to determine how well DCA works against various cancers within the human body is ongoing, here.
Several publications demonstrate that DCA works in a variety of cancers.
For the first time in the world, on Dec 7, 2007 we publicly shared our observational data from the treatment of 118 cancer patients with DCA. We updated our data in 2009 from treating over 347 patients. This can be found here. As of Oct 2011, we have treated over 800 cancer patients with DCA, the most of any center in the world. Since clinical trial data is now emerging, we are no longer collecting observational data. Instead, we are focusing our efforts on publishing our findings in reputable peer-reviewed medical journals. Our first publication is: “Use of Oral Dichloroacetate for Palliation of Leg Pain Arising from Metastatic Poorly Differentiated Carcinoma: A Case Report.” This can be viewed here.
DCA has been used in humans to treat a rare disease called “congenital lactic acidosis”, and found to have some mild to moderate side effects. Our experience so far suggests that DCA is safe to use in cancer patients under close medical supervision. Some animal studies show that DCA can itself cause liver cancer. These studies used doses which are over 100 times higher than what would be prescribed for cancer treatment. We think that DCA can have 2 main categories of side effects.
Other Side Effects:
Most side effects reported so far have been mild or moderate. Patients experiencing moderate side effects are usually taken off DCA as a precaution. Most side effects typically resolve within days after stopping DCA. Neuropathy can take weeks or months to resolve, and is reversible.
can be found here. TLS occurs most commonly in patients with a large mass of tumour cells in the body who receive chemotherapy, especially with lymphomas or acute leukemia. We have not had a single case of TLS in our patients treated with DCA alone. Since DCA can enhance the effect of chemotherapy in certain cases, it may be more likely to occur if DCA is combined with chemotherapy (especially without medical supervision).
We have observed that drugs that can cause confusion or hallucinations have a potential to interact with DCA. This may include cannabinoids, benzodiazepines and other CNS drugs, especially if they are already causing some neurological side effects. Patients who receive consultations by our physicians will be assessed for potential drug interactions, and specific medical advice will be given. All Medicor patients who receive DCA will be closely monitored by our physicians for drug side effects with routine check-ups, comprehensive lab tests, and imaging studies. We take into account our patients’ general condition, other medications, past medical history, and concurrent health problems.
We have received a large number of inquiries about caffeine following some anecdotal reports of enhanced DCA effect with excessive tea/caffeine intake. After conducting a limited review of our DCA patients, we have noted that a few patients with high tea/caffeine consumption (> 10 cups per day) have shown no response to DCA. Also many patients who have shown an excellent response to DCA do not take tea/coffee or caffeine or take it in minimal amounts.
There are a number of potential harmful effects of consuming high doses of caffeine including increased likelihood of seizures in brain tumour patients, abnormal heart rhythms, anxiety, and insomnia. Even though there is new data to show that intravenous high dose caffeine can enhance chemotherapy, the potential for caffeine to enhance DCA therapy is unverified. We are presently recommending against the use of high dose caffeine, unless it is done with medical supervision. Patients should use moderation with consumption of caffeinated drinks and check with their own doctor, naturopath or dietician for specific advice.
For the first time in North America, Medicor and Advanced Cancer Theranostx began conducting ChemoFit tests with DCA and chemo combined (in 2008). This means eligible patients can have a sample of their own tumor analyzed to see if combinations of DCA and chemo will work, and if they will work better than chemo or DCA alone. The accuracy of the ChemoFit test ranges from 85-95%.
We have already had some exciting results showing that DCA can, in some cases, dramatically enhance the cancer-killing effects of chemo. However, there is a possibility that DCA can interfere with chemo as well. This is similar to single agent chemo being better than combination chemo for some patients. Published lab research now confirms our findings.
If you are a patient who is thinking of combining DCA and chemotherapy, we recommend you review our ChemoFit web page, here. and discuss the test with your oncologist. We also have more detailed information for physicians at http://www.medicorcancer.com/chemofit4doctors.html Malignant ascites fluid samples and malignant pleural effusion samples can now be tested with ChemoFit, eliminating the need for a biopsy in some patients.
If you are not able to have the ChemoFit test, a treatment plan can be developed to safely combine DCA with most chemotherapy drugs with minimal risk of interference (depending on the chemotherapy schedule).
The first phase 2 clinical trial of DCA in glioblastoma was completed but was not published as a trial, possibly because the DCA doses were too high and resulted in a large number of patients dropping out (our opinion, actual reason not disclosed by the authors). Click here for detailed commentary on this trial.
Several DCA clinical trials are presently ongoing. These can be reviewed by clicking here.
We are aware of many patients who are currently self-medicating with DCA. DCA can be purchased as a lab chemical not suitable for human use. This DCA contains impurities that make it unsafe for patients to take. DCA can also be purchased by various internet companies. Buyers should be aware that these companies are not regulated and may be selling fake DCA or contaminated DCA. One owner of a web-based company has already been convicted of internet fraud for selling counterfeit DCA, and is serving a jail term. (Click here for story).
Patients with a documented diagnosis of cancer (any type) under the following categories qualify for treatment:
In order to determine if DCA is effective in treating your cancer, we recommend at least 6 to 8 weeks of treatment. For slow growing cancers, longer treatment is needed. If your cancer responds to the drug, therapy may continue indefinitely. If you experience significant side effects, treatment will be stopped and may be restarted later.dca-therapy