DCA and Cancer

Medically reviewed by Yamini Ranchod, PhD, MS on November 15, 2017Written by Alex Snyder

DCA cancer treatment

Dichloroacetate, or DCA, is a synthetic chemical used for cosmetic and clinical purposes. It’s commercially available as a cauterizing agent, meaning it burns the skin.

This drug became popular in 2007 after a Canadian study suggested DCA might be able to reverse cancer growth. While some experimental treatments have shown interesting results, DCA hasn’t yet been proven safe or effective for treating cancer.

It’s not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a cancer treatment.

Until further research is done, it’s not recommended to use DCA as an alternative cancer treatment. Pharmaceutical-grade DCA isn’t readily available to the general public, nor is it safe to be administered alone.

What is dichloroacetate?

DCA is typically used, medically and cosmetically, as a cauterizing agent. Cauterizing agents burn the skin. DCA is effective for cosmetic treatments to remove:

The drug has been investigated as a potential treatment for cancer, diabetes, and familial hypercholesterolemia.

DCA is currently used as a clinical treatment for a condition known as congenital lactic acidosis.

DCA studies for cancer treatment

In 2007, Dr. Evangelos Michelakis conducted an experiment using DCA to treat human cancer cells implanted into rats. The study showed that DCA helped kill the cancerous cells and shrink the rats’ tumors without affecting healthy cells.

Cancer cells are hard to kill because they suppress the mitochondria, which powers the cell. Michelakis’ study showed DCA reactivated the mitochondria in the cell. This process killed the cancer cells.

According to Michelakis, DCA is “pointing the way to the development of better mitochondrial-activating drugs.”

Additional research found it’s ineffective against certain forms of cancer, such as colon cancer. In some instances, it even caused certain tumors to grow.

In 2010, the first clinical trial for DCA with human subjects was conducted. People in this study had malignant brain tumors, known as glioblastomas.

Despite the hopeful research, the American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend people pursue DCA as an alternative cancer treatment.

DCA will require more time, research, and evidence from clinical trials before it can be recommended as an alternative cancer treatment.

Purchasing DCA safely

Although it may be possible to buy legitimate DCA online, it’s not recommended you do so. The drug isn’t yet approved by the FDA as a cancer treatment. That means there’s no way to regulate what sellers put in their product. This is dangerous: There’s no way to know the quality or safety of the item you’re purchasing.

For example, one person caught selling counterfeit DCA online actually sold people a mixture of starch, dextrin, dextrose, and lactose. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay a $75,000 fine.

What’s the outlook?

For a brief time, DCA showed promise as a possible alternative cancer treatment. However, this is still unproven. Based on current research, the FDA doesn’t sanction DCA as a cancer treatment. If you have cancer, doctors recommend you continue with traditional forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy.

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