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Response to: Unapproved cancer therapy DCA makes some tumours worse (ANNE McILROY)

The Globe and Mail reports that DCA has been shown ineffective in colorectal cancer and even worse, it has been shown to protect certain cancerous cells.

The article made it to the Associated Press as well:

The state of science reporting is truly depressing and distressing to say the least.  The lack of scientific literacy makes room for such errant reporting.  The article is filled with conjecture and supposition with very little reference to the actual article.

Very few people have actually read the journal post, and fewer still can understand it.  Just the same, here it is:

The article says that under hypoxic conditions (low oxygen) conditions that DCA is proven to be ineffective.

No kidding.

DCA is a drug that restores mitochondrial function.  The mitochondria are responsible for cell aptopsis (cell suicide) in cancer.  When they are restored to normal function, they are able to recognize that the cell is in an errant state and kill the cell.  Mitochondria rely on oxygen to work.  The mechanism by which they produce energy for a cell is called none other than oxidative phosphorylation (ie, it requires oxygen).

At the core of a dense tumour there is almost no oxygen at all.  Indeed, it’s unlikely DCA could even be delivered to the core of a deeply dense tumour where there is insufficient blood vessel perfusion.  If DCA was administered to cells where there was no oxygen available, it would be equivalent to fixing an engine but still being out of gas — the engine still wouldn’t turn over.

The ‘protective’ effect DCA supposedly offers hypoxic cancer cells could be explained by restored mitochondrial function which is able to provide cellular energy with the little oxygen available, whereas the mitochondria aren’t functioning well enough to effect aptopsis.  By continued analogy, DCA might fix the engine enough to allow it to turn over with the pint of gas in the tank, but the engine would stall before being able to arrive at the destination: aptopsis.

What the researchers fail to ask is: what is occurring at the surface of the tumour where there is sufficient oxygen?  Is it possible that DCA is able to reach the cells on the surface and effect aptopsis there?  If so, then DCA could work it’s way in slowly from the outside in… it a far gentler and safer way than most common anti-cancer treatments.

In fact, many common cancer treatments kill cancers too rapidly causing a rapid decline in overall health of the patient opening the patient to further cancers or eventual worsening of tumour in question.

Dr. Brenda Coomber et al out at the University of Guelph have managed only to underscore the vital need for a full clinical trial of DCA to answer the questions posed here an in other places as to the efficacy and safety of DCA in broad spectrum use against many forms of cancer.

If journalists who aren’t versed in science would like to publish articles about said subject, might I suggest they direct their attention to the fact that DCA is not likely to receive funds to make its way through a full clinical trial.  Regrettably DCA is as common as table salt and is not patentable.  Journalists need to focus on why profit trumps caring in medical research.

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