For almost half a century, DCA has been a relatively basic substance used for treating people with congenital mitochondrial diseases. Nearly a decade ago, the interest in this drug spiked up because of new research and claims that it could be able to serve those who have cancer. Since then, there has been a lot of interest generated towards this medication.
In this long article, we will attempt to briefly cover what we know about dichloroacetate and how it works. Keep in mind – we‘ll try to explain the complex mechanisms as simply as possible. We encourage every person interested in DCA therapy to read on.
So… How does a small, inexpensive and a relatively nontoxic molecule like dichloroacetate work ?
How cancer cells act differently ?
To better understand the mechanism of DCA, we must be aware of the different processes that thrive in a cancerous cell. Cancer is considered to be a genetic disease in which genes that control how our cells grow and divide start behaving abnormally. Due to error in our DNA, the cells become chaotic, multiply uncontrollably and change their normal metabolic activity.
Every cell contains important organelles called mitochondria. These structures can be called “cellular power plants” because they produce the energy needed for live organisms to function properly. Besides, mitochondria are important in the cells life cycle – they play key roles in activating apoptosis.
Unfortunately, cancer cells have reduced mitochondrial function. This means that cancerous cells mostly produce energy by extremely high rates of glycolysis outside the mitochondria, rather than oxidative phosphorylation inside the mitochondria (Warburg effect) which also causes a massive increase in uptake of glucose and the exhaustion of the patient.
Because of the intracellular metabolic changes apoptosis (natural cell death) is stopped and it makes the malignant cells “immortal”.
Suppressed mitochondrion function leads to a lot of advantages for the tumor – it can survive and grow without oxygen in anaerobic conditions (eg. the cells in the middle of a cancerous mass), it promotes biosynthesis (cancer growth and division), it evades immune cells and disrupts the normal architecture of tissues (the cancer becomes more malignant and dangerous).
On the top of that, the Warburg effect produces an acidic environment. Such conditions damage the intercellular matrix, set the cancerous cells free into the bloodstream or lymph and promote metastasis (the cancer can spread and become deadly).
As we can see, the Warburg effect causes metabolic changes that make cancer a hardly manageable illness. Nevertheless, recently there have been ideas to begin perceiving and approaching cancer as a metabolic disease and this is where the molecule of DCA comes in handy.
How DCA affects cancer ?
So far we can understand how the cellular metabolism of tumors differs from that of our healthy, normal cells. Malignant cells switch off their mitochondria and start producing energy mainly through cytoplasmic glycolysis and these changes generate a lot of advantages for the tumor.
Dichloroacetate works by restoring the suppressed mitochondrial function and rendering the “bad cells” non cancerous. The normalized mitochondria then are able to resume the halted apoptosis process (the natural intracellular suicide system) and the harmful cells start dying on their own. What’s more important, the drug is selective. It doesn’t poison healthy tissues and cause significant effects on non carcinogenic cells like cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs.
The way DCA achieves these results is by reversing the Warburg effect. The substance inhibits an important enzyme which is essential for cancer proliferation – pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK). Once again the cell starts producing most of its energy in a normal way (through oxidative phosphorylation). The mechanism restores normal cellular metabolic activity.
Notably, Sodium Dichloroacetate has a lot of characteristics of an ideal antitumor therapy. We will discuss these characteristics further.
Why DCA is a good anticancer medication ?
To begin with, as a result of increased apoptosis, the substance effectively stops tumor growth (proliferation) and can even cause them to shrink in size or disappear.
To our surprise, DCA can also reduce the vascularity of tumors (by inhibiting angiogenesis). This prevents the nutrients from reaching and feeding the “bad cells”. Less blood vessel deposition on the cancerous masses also means that there are fewer pathways for cancer to spread – this lowers the probability of metastasis and disease progression.
Last but not least, since dichloroacetate is a small molecule, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and can help manage brain tumors. Currently, there are only few prescriptions that can reach the cerebral matter, making DCA a considerable option for therapy.
However, we are used to the reality that anticancer medications cause severe outcomes. Chemotherapy can have a very harsh effect on the body and provide unpleasant experiences. This is why patients are specifically prepared and receive medications prior to the administration of chemotherapy, to help minimize this
Despite that, DCA isn’t considered to be a cytotoxic chemotherapy drug and it appears to cause minimal systemic toxicity. Dichloroacetate is a gentle non-chemo treatment option that can have none, little or mild side reactions.
Then again, all the side effects are reversible which makes it the most appealing characteristic of using this molecule.
To put in simply, DCA induces intracellular as well as macroscopic changes that can help you accomplish successful therapy against cancer and achieve good improvements. Many people start feeling better in weeks.
What positive improvements people can expect ?
Given the fact that now we understand enough things about this relatively new cancer treatment, we can turn our attention from a scientific perspective to a more practical point of view. What are the possible experiences when using Sodium Dichloroacetate ?
Bare in mind that the information we present is based on real and open observational data gathered from the clinical practise of top DCA therapy centers in the world. We must remember the main point which is true to every cancer case there is – the earlier the disease is caught and diagnosed, the sooner we take action, the better results we will achieve. The DCA treatment will not always provide positive outcomes and help everyone.
The lowest positive response is disease stabilization. This means that the tumor stops spreading and growing. There are no further signs of cancer progression.
As a result of taking DCA, a much better positive response can be improved symptoms. Patients regain their appetite, feel more energized, reduce their fatigue, regain weight and feel less pain. These things tend to last for a sustained period of time.
More importantly, people suffering from cancer obtain an improvement in blood tests and a reduction of tumor markers.
The best results of using DCA are measurable tumour size reduction or complete cancer remission. DCA users have their tumours screened by imaging techniques such as CT scans, Magnetic resonance imaging, Ultrasonography and report significant cancer size reduction. Some of them even report complete cancer recovery.
Half of the people who take DCA experience mild side effects that most of the time are neurological and can be improved by a couple of dietary supplements (eg. Vitamin B1, Alpha-Lipoic Acid) or by taking a break from the treatment.
When all the things are considered, we must emphasize that sodium dichloroacetate can be taken alone or in combination with other anticancer medications. Naturally, a lot of people are eager to know – is DCA acceptable with other forms of cancer therapy ?
In short – yes. It is possible and even encouraged (with a couple of exceptions).