DCA is a synthetic drug, but it is a very simple compound similar to a chemical combination of salt and vinegar. It works against cancer in a natural way (by triggering natural cell suicide).
Is DCA safe?
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 much higher than what would be prescribed for cancer treatment. Also, no human study has every demonstrated liver tumour formation because of DCA therapy. We have observed that DCA can have 2 main categories of side effects.
Nerve injury in the hands and feet (“peripheral neuropathy”). Neuropathy typically takes several weeks to months to develop and is reversible if it is caught early. In the existing literature, neuropathy from DCA has always been shown to be reversible. We use vitamin B1 (benfotiamine or thiamine), acetyl L-carnitine and R alpha lipoic acid to prevent and reduce the severity of peripheral neuropathy. These medicines can be given orally or intravenously depending on the degree of neuropathy. Published data clearly demonstrates all of these medicines can help chemo and/or diabetic neuropathy, and our own extensive experience confirms that these supplements are effective for DCA neuropathy as well.
Sedation, confusion, hallucinations, memory problems, mood changes, hand tremors. These side effects are temporary and appear to be dose-dependent and age-dependent. This finding is consistent with existing human research on DCA that we have reviewed. We use benfotiamine (a type of vitamin B1), acetyl Lcarnitine and R alpha lipoic acid to prevent/reduce these side effects.
Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, indigestion. These side effects may occur with DCA, and we prescribe a “proton pump inhibitor” antacid medication (e.g. pantoprazole) as needed to treat them.
Other Side Effects:
Some patients experience pain at the sites of their tumour(s) within the first few days of starting DCA. This may be an indicator of the effectiveness of DCA. About 1-2% of patients have mild liver toxicity (increase in liver enzymes noted without symptoms). We have not observed any drop in blood cell counts due to bone marrow toxicity, or any other significant organ toxicity. Note that leukemia patients may see a drop in their high white blood cell count, indicating destruction of the cancerous white cells.
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.
TLS (Tumour Lysis Syndrome)
This is a condition in which a large number of tumour cells are rapidly killed, causing a sudden release of the contents of the dead cells into the bloodstream. It can result in abnormal heart rhythms, salt imbalance in the blood and kidney failure. A detailed reference article 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. In theory, DCA should not cause TLS because it kills cancer cell naturally by apoptosis. 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 noticed that intravenous DCA can work more quickly than oral DCA in some cases, so there is theoretically more risk of TLS if i.v. DCA is combined with other therapies such as chemo. We have observed one cases of TLS when i.v. DCA was combined with cannabis oil.
DCA and Renal Failure
DCA is not toxic to the kidneys. DCA can safely be used in patients with moderately severe renal failure based on our experience.
DCA and Heart Failure
DCA is safe to use in patients with heart failure. DCA improves the pumping efficiency of the heart without increasing oxygen demand. As a result, it can improve heart failure or angina.
DCA and Heart Rhythm Disturbance
DCA shortens the QT interval which is an electrical measurement of the heart determined by ECG. Combination with drugs that prolong the QT interval is therefore unlikely to cause abnormal heart rhythms. Rather, DCA may prevent abnormal heart rhythms.
DCA and Liver Failure / Jaundice
DCA is metabolized by the liver, so dose adjustment is needed for patients with liver failure. Also, a difference cycles may be needed. Intravenous DCA is likely safer than oral DCA for patients in liver failure.
DCA and Diabetes
Diabetics may notice a slight improvement in blood glucose control. Diabetes medications generally do not have to be changed, but blood glucose monitoring will determine if adjustment is required.
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 on stable doses of opiate pain medications or benzodiazepines who are not having side effects from these drugs rarely have such issues.
DCA and Caffeine
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.
DCA and Chemotherapy
For the first time in North America, Medicor and AccuTheranostics (previously known as ORT) began conducting ChemoFit tests with DCA and chemo combined (2008). Eligible patients were able to have a sample of their own tumor analyzed to see if combinations of DCA and chemo were effective, and if they worked 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, rarely to the point of cure (estimated 0.5% chance of cure). 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 contact Dr.
The best time for a ChemoFit test to be done is at the time of cancer surgery. If you have already had surgery, but you have an accessible tumour, it can be biopsied by your surgeon for the ChemoFit test. 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).
What is the status of DCA clinical trials?
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 many patients dropping out (our opinion, actual reason not disclosed by the authors).
Even though we have seen clear evidence of DCA’s effectiveness in several types of cancer, Medicor physicians believe that it is necessary for formal clinical trials to be conducted. DCA is different from other drugs that undergo clinical trials because it is not a “new” drug. It has already been used for decades in humans and has a relatively safe profile. This means that the trials may take less time but may still take years. Many cancer patients cannot wait this length of time. We are hopeful that information obtained from our experiences with DCA will supplement clinical trials and help patients and the medical community.
There is a publication that says DCA increases the growth of colon cancer. Is that correct?
There is a publication which reports that DCA enhances the survival of colon cancer cells. This paper is flawed because the researchers looked at the effects of DCA on cancer cells with a complete absence of oxygen (anoxia). While hypoxia (low oxygen) may be common in tumours, anoxia (complete lack of oxygen) is not a normal situation. In very rapidly growing tumours, there will be areas of anoxia, however colon cancer generally does not behave that way. In summary, we believe our clinical findings from treating actual patients are more meaningful than this lab study done under artificial conditions. DCA (both oral and intravenous) can be an effective treatment for colon cancer based on our extensive clinical experience. DCA can cause symptom improvement, tumour shrinkage, tumour stability, or reduction in the colon cancer blood marker CEA.
Do I Qualify for DCA Treatment?
Patients with a documented diagnosis of cancer (any type) under the following categories qualify for treatment: