Thursday, January 18, 2007

Simple Yet Effective Cure for Cancer?

L2si: Silver Bullet for Cancer?

We know that effective cancer treatments are coming -- nanobots singling out cancer cells and destroying them with tiny laser beams, gene therapies calibrated right down to the specific DNA sequence of the patient, etc. It's all very exciting. But then there's this:

It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe.

It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.

Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks.

DCA works by switching the mitochondria back on inside cancer cells. Deprived of oxygen, cancer cells survive by an alternative energy-supplying process called glycolysis. This bypasses the normal metabolic process governed by the mitochondria. Unfortunately, the mitochondrial process not only supplies a cell with energy, it determines the cell's lifespan. When a cell adopts this workaround fuel strategy that bypasses the mitochondria, it becomes an "immortal" cancer cell. By switching the mitochondria back on in such cells, DCA ensures that they die a natural, and very welcome, death.


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