Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dichloroacetic Acid (DCA) - A Potential Cancer Cure

Last Saturday, TC who is my TCM teacher told me that this coming week, he will talk on cancer from the TCM point of view. He asked me if I am willing to talk to my classmates about my cancer fight which I gladly agreed. He also told me to investigate DCA or Dichloroacetic acid.

I am also very excited by DCA because of its potential cure for so many cancers and can be ordered online and best part is, not expensive. DCA has already been (safely) used on humans to treat mitochondrial/metabolic malfunctions and, considering that cancer is a mitochondrial malfunction, the doctor should be able to prescribe DCA to you as on "off-label" drug. The FDA allows medical doctors to prescribe drugs that have been used for one disease, to use against a different disease, if the physician feels that it is prudent and has a chance of working. There are also two testimonials of cancer patients with advance kidney cancer where DCA was used it as an adjuvant drug. There is also a testimonial from a Malaysian patient with breast cancer remission.

I would suggest that you visit this DCA site (for which most information of this post was derived from) for more detail information. I have extracted the key information for this post.

Dichloroacetic acid (DCA)
According to Wikipedia, Dichloroacetic acid, often abbreviated DCA, is the chemical compound with formula, CHCl2COOH. It is an acid, an analogue of acetic acid, in which two of the three hydrogen atoms of the methyl group have been replaced by chlorine atoms. The salt and esters of dichloroacetic acid are called dichloroacetates. Salts of DCA have been studied as potential drugs because they inhibit the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase.

Cancel cells change the way they metabolize oxygen in a way that promotes their survival. In laboratory studies of isolated cancer cells grown in tissue culture, DCA restores the original metabolism, and promotes their self-destruction. This has led to the use of DCA for treating cancer, by individuals experimenting with it themselves, by doctors administering it to patients as a non-approved drug, by scientists testing it in cancer tissue cultures in cell culture and in mice, and in human Phase II studies. DCA has improved certain biochemical parameters, but it has not demonstrated improved survival.

A study in mice at the University of Alberta showed that "DCA induces apoptosis, decreases proliferation, and inhibits tumor growth, without apparent toxicity." In 2010, a small human trial on 5 cancer patients and 49 samples of tissue was conducted. The results were encouraging, and DCA "appeared to extend the lives of four of the five study participants".

How does DCA work, briefly?
The Michelakis team reports that DCA turns on the mitochondria of cancer cells, allowing them to commit cellular suicide, or apoptosis.

Cancer cells shut down the mitochondria, which is the part of the cell that is involved in metabolism and, incidentally, initiates the cell suicide.

A non-cancerous cell will initiate apoptosis when it detects damage within itself that it cannot repair. But a cancer cell resists the suicide process. That is why chemotherapy and radiation treatments do not work very well and actually result in terrible side effects… the healthy cells actually die much easier.

Michelakis and his team discovered that they could re-activate the mitochondria of cancer cells. Not only that, the DCA is very effective in doing it: To quote from the Michelakis paper: “The decrease in [Ca2+]i occurs within 5 min and is sustained after 48 hr of DCA exposure.” The mitochondria are so sensitive to DCA that just 5 minutes of exposure reactivates them for 48 hours.

The metabolic approach to cancer is supported by other research. Inhibition of Glycolysis in Cancer Cells: A Novel Strategy to Overcome Drug Resistance Associated with Mitochondrial Respiratory Defect and Hypoxia  is a paper by a John Hopkins research team supporting this approach. 

A team of researchers from University of Alberta, Canada studied the effects of DCA and published a paper called A Mitochondria-K+ Channel Axis Is Suppressed in Cancer and Its Normalization Promotes Apoptosis and Inhibits Cancer Growth. You can download a copy of the study here.

DCA Dosage
If you view the video from CTV you will see a jar of dichloroacetic acid prominently displayed. http://www.depmed.ualberta.ca/dca/vid1.htm is well worth watching. But they used a “cheap ...powder”. Dichloroacetic acid only comes in liquid. The powder is the sodium salt of dichloroacetic acid. It is sodium dichloroacetate. The researchers did not use the acid.
For those of you searching for DCA, do not buy the acid. The acid is not the same thing as the acetate. The acid is dangerously corrosive.

(We are not physicians nor veterinarians, so this information is from a private, non-medical professional, viewpoint.) 

1. It is clear from the research that one must be very careful about not going too high with the dosage of DCA for too long a period. Adults may have problems using dosages at 25 mg/kg of body weight and above for protracted periods. We see people showing side effects even at 14 to 15 mg/kg of body weight per day after three to six weeks.
2. The Michelakis paper states that DCA is dose-dependent, meaning the higher the dose of DCA the better the response. The Michelakis patent gives a dose range of 10 mg/kg of body weight to 100 mg/kg for tumor action.

The half-life of DCA in the body is about 24 hours, so drug holidays are a good way to lower the levels of DCA and avoid side effects. 

In using DCA, we urge you to consider the full protocol of DCA, caffeinated tea and vitamin B1.It appears that you can use lower doses of DCA in this protocol. Side effects are still a concern, so adjust accordingly if side effects appear.

The recommendation is once or twice a day. Split the dosage and take half in the morning and half at night. We have seen a number of excellent responses with once a day treatments.

Side effects from DCA are reported even with doses of 13 to 14 mg/kg after 6 to 8 weeks. Considering the half-life of DCA (the amount of time necessary to metabolize and eliminate half of the DCA in one's system) can run as long as 24 hours, getting off DCA periodically might help keep the levels low and make managing side effects much easier. Good suggestions we hear include taking DCA every other day, or taking DCA Monday through Friday and not taking it on weekends.

DCA Safety and Side Effects
Brain cancer patients who use DCA and caffeine are at very high risk. Please read this.

Update 1 March 2008: We are seeing a consistent response in people on the DCA-caffeine protocol. The DCA is "wiping them out". Many of the patients sleep much of the time and their muscles are weak, especially their leg muscles. Balance can be an issue and the patients can fall down. However, these patients are experiencing very noticeable response in their cancers. These symptoms are among those shown for tumor lysis.

Safety Studies
DCA is a common by-product of the chlorination of drinking water, and as a result, has been the focus of many studies. The EPA has published a large study, "Toxicological Review of Dichloroacetic Acid", a 200 plus page volume listing a summary of most DCA safety and health research done as of August 2003. WHO has published "Dichloroacetic Acid in Drinking Water", 2005. Health Canada has published "Haloacetic acids in Drinking Water" . This gives us an abundance of research to examine the safety considerations of DCA. (Please note that nowhere in the literature has any human ever been reported to have died from DCA intake) 

The Michelakis patent states that tumor action is achievable with a dose as low as 10 mg/kg. "To date, there have been no reports of dichloroacetic acid-induced neoplasia in any human tissue and no reports of gonadal toxicity in humans (Stacpoole et al., 1998a)." from WHO

"Dichloroacetic acid has been used as a therapeutic agent to treat lactic acidosis, diabetes, and familial hyperlipidaemia in humans; oral or intravenous therapeutic doses are usually in the range of 25–50 mg/kg of body weight per day (Stacpoole et al., 1998a)." WHO

NOEL: Stands for No Observed Effects Level
NOAEL is No Observed Adverse Effects Level
These levels are defined as the highest tested dose of a substance that has been reported to have no harmful (adverse) health effects on people or animals. Thanks to the extensive EPA research, the NOELs have been determined for mice, rats and dogs. These numbers range from 3 to 12.5 mg/kg.
Acute toxicity: Oral LD50 in rats is 4480 mg/kg and 5520 mg/kg for mice.

Several excellent articles relating to the safety aspects of DCA are available here

Side Effects
"Several cases of mild peripheral neuropathy following dichloroacetic acid treatment at 50–100 mg/kg of body weight per day for several months to a year have been reported (Stacpoole et al., 1998a; Spruijt et al., 2001). All were completely reversible after cessation of treatment. In one of these cases, dichloroacetic acid was reinstituted at 25 mg/kg of body weight per day following reversal of neurological symptoms, and this dose was maintained for 2 years without further evidence of neuropathy (Stacpoole et al., 1998a). " WHO article. 

"The potential benefits of DCA, with or without aerobic training, must be weighed against the potential side-effects of the drug. There were numerous adverse reports during the course of the chronic phase of the study that were directly attributable to DCA, including increased fatigue, shortness of breath, episodes of vomiting and/or gastrointestinal distress, and increased incidence of tremors, " 

A good study of side effects in dogs shows the range of side effects of DCA exposure even at 12.5 mg/kg per day and really highlights the importance of using the minimum dosages of 10 to 15 mg/kg. The higher the dosage, the more risk of side effects.

The side effects reported by users (taken from our survey to-date), include:
  • peripheral neuropathy (tingling in the fingers)
  • numbness in toes or fingers
  • shaking or tremors in hands
  • weakness in legs
  • mild nausea
  • swollen ankles
  • more urination
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleepy
  • breathing heavier than usual
  • tingling (neuropathy) in the lips
With the use of the DCA-Caffeine-B1 protocol we are seeing a whole new set of effects. These effects appear to be TLS, as the symptoms are appearing much sooner than typically seen with DCA alone. Sleepiness, fatigue, weak legs and balance issues are sometimes reported.

You should closely monitor for side effects. We suggest that if you start to feel tingling or numbness in your fingers that you should get off DCA for a few days, then restart at the same or lower dose level. Some supplements often recommended are thiamine or folic acid. Vitamin B1 has been standard. There is movement now towards the use of benfotiamine instead of vitamin B1.

Additionally, glutamine is something to consider. Dr. Steve Martin of Grouppe Kurosawa recommends 50g/day of glutamine.

"... natural treatments such as acetyl-L-carnitine, lipoic acid, evening primrose oil, fish oil, magnet therapy, selenium and vitamin E have been shown to alleviate the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy altogether" from  http://www.peripheral-neuropathy-help.com/diabetic-neuropathy-treatment.html. It is interesting that most of these are known to be effective anti-cancer treatments.

Fish Oil supplementation has been shown to be effective. And taking fish oil is potentially a great supplement to take to fight cancer. Here is a reported remission due to fish oil.

Additionally there is talk that citric acid might help reduce peripheral neuropathy. One Dutch doctor self-medicating for his own cancer would take 20 grams of citric acid 20 minutes before taking before taking DCA.

Tumor Lysis Syndrome
Side effects atypical of DCA have been reported. These effects may be what is termed "Tumor Lysis Syndrome", the consequence of the rapid breakdown and death of cancer cells. This can be serious, and can result in death in some cases. The fact that we even have to worry about this is good news for us, because DCA is working so well against many cancers. TLS is also caused by other, standard, cancer therapies when they destroy tumor cells rapidly.
Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS) is a life-threatening oncologic emergency characterized by metabolic abnormalities that can occur during rapid tumor breakdown in response to anti-cancer treatment. TLS is most frequently seen in acute lymphocytic leukemia and high-grade NHLs, but many other hematologic and solid tumors have been associated with this complication.

According to the Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics, the following cancers are associated with TLS:
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL)
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute myelocytic leukemia (AML)
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
  • Chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML)
  • Breast cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Small cell carcinoma of the lung
An academic note: TLS is not just a cancer issue. Even mass parasite death results in a situation similar to TLS. There is a related syndrome, called the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, or "Herx" Reaction. This can result from bacterial lysis after the initiation of antibiotic use. 

If you develop symptoms of TLS:
1. See your doctor immediately
2. Discontinue use of DCA until the symptoms subside,
3. When you start taking DCA again, use it at a lower dose or use DCA on alternate days.


  1. It appears that the TLS side effects may be the cancer cell analog of viral infections of normal cells. When the infected normal cell membranes are ruptured there is a cytokine message sent out to the immune system. Depending on the amount of damage, one can have what is referred to as a cytokine "storm", provoking an extreme response from the immune system. It is the immune system over reaction that makes one feel bad or in extreme cases kills. It seems to me that the dying cancer cells do the same type of messaging as their membranes rupture, and dose reduction is effective because it reduces the strength of the message. Hence, the onset of these symptoms with DCA is a sign that it is doing its job. You just don't want to overdo it.

    1. So glad to find all this information today; thank you! Just two days ago I met a woman who after being on Chemo for Thyroid cancer then developed (still unknown to me form of) Leukemia, which I now suspect was likely about the cancer stem cell die off (Herx) and subsequent TLS effect. Then, since there are no coincidences, it was just last night when another woman suggested I look into DCA...which means that, again, primarily with thanks to your journaling, I am already coming full circle. Again, thank you for having both the courage and compassionate inclination to create this blog. I hope you're doing well and do trust: your contribution for greater good has been so appreciated. :-)