Dichloroacetate (DCA) and Cancer
What is Dichloroacetate (DCA)?
Dichloroacetate (DCA) is a compound produced as a by-product of water chlorination. It has been used in the treatment of several disorders, including heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Recently, DCA has gained attention for it’s potential use in the treatment of cancer.
How does Dichloroacetate (DCA) work?
Normal cells produce energy in the mitochondria, which are intracellular structures that use oxygen to act as “batteries” and power cellular processes. Mitochondria are also involved in inducing apoptosis (cell death). Unlike these normal cells, cancer cells often produce energy without using oxygen. This allows them to shut down their mitochondria, which prevents apoptosis and allows cancer to grow. Dichloroacetate (DCA) works by reversing abnormal cancer cell metabolism and re-instates the function of the mitochondria, a process that can lead to apoptosis. Dichloroacetate (DCA) is typically prescribed with the intention of reducing tumor size, preventing cancer progression, or to manage pain.
What is the evidence for effectiveness?
Research on the use of Dichloroacetate (DCA) in cancer treatment is still in it’s infancy. Most of the studies are preclinical, conducted in animal models or on human cancer cell lines (in petri dishes). A few human studies have been published, including one in patients with advanced solid tumors, one in patients with recurrent malignant brain tumors, and one in patients with advanced breast or non-small cell lung cancer. These preliminary studies did show promising effects in decreasing tumor size, but further clinical trials would be valuable. Currently there is some level of evidence to support the use of DCA in the following cancers: breast, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, lung, lymphoma, kidney, and thyroid. The use of DCA in other cancers may be considered based on each patient’s individual situation.
Are there any side effects?
Dichloroacetate (DCA) is well tolerated in most patients, but has the potential to cause fatigue, confusion, tremors, memory loss, sedation, agitation, depression, and heartburn or nausea (when taken orally). Peripheral neuropathy is also possible but is completely reversible with discontinuation of the drug.
How is Dichloroacetate (DCA) taken?
DCA can be administered orally or intravenously. At the IHC we always administer intravenous alpha lipoic acid following intravenous Dichloroacetate (DCA) to prevent the development of peripheral neuropathy. It is our belief that the intravenous route may achieve more rapid therapeutic effects and therefore may be of greater value in patients where immediate action is necessary.
If you are interested in learning whether Dichloroacetate (DCA) may be an appropriate intervention for you, consult with one of our doctors in the IHC Cancer Care Center.
You can also explore more details regarding DCA here: DCA Link
Or contact us at the IHC Cancer Care Centre receptionist via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 604-888-8325, option #1.
Sarah Soles, BSc., ND