Clinical trials Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine

A couple of more cluesticks on dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer

Since DaveScot has made an appearance or two in the comments here, annoying everyone he comes in contact with, it’s worth pointing out that mine isn’t the only cluestick that could be used to pound some science into him about dichloroacetate, the supposed “cure” for cancer that’s being “ignored” or “suppressed” by Big Pharma. Since my original article on the subject, two more excellent (and realistic) overviews of the promise and peril of DCA as an inexpensive chemotherapeutic agent to treat cancer have appeared, one of them by fellow ScienceBlogger Abel Pharmboy and one actually appearing on Daily Kos, the site that posted one of the original hysterical “we have a cheap cure for cancer but Big Pharma’s ignoring it” posts.

So, DaveScot, meet this trio of cluesticks. Trio of cluesticks, meet DaveScot again.

While we’re at it, a commenter named Phil Monk has posted another example of someone who really, really could use the cluestick on this issue as well, a guy by the name of Damien Zerek. Geez, this guy makes DaveScot look restrained by comparison.

But, seriously, it’d be really, really great if all the hype were true and this stuff were to be shown to cure cancer in humans in the Phase II clinical trial that will soon be done. Aside from the cancer patients whose lives would be saved and their loved ones, I doubt anyone would be much happier than me. (I’d love to see the “no more cancer” as much as anyone; I could always do other kinds of surgery and research for a living.) I also realize that there are legitimate complaints about how this case illustrates shortcomings in our drug development system and that may have been a bit harsh at times while addressing this issue. However, nearly all of my targets richly deserved it (the most prominent possible exception being Ezra Klein). What irritated me so was the trumpeting of “a cure for cancer,” coupled with rants that showed that the people doing the ranting didn’t have a clue about cancer, drug development, clinical trials, or research funding.

Given that, the main reason I posted about DCA yet one more time, even at the risk of boring my readers or annoying certain of my fellow ScienceBloggers again, is because there are now more articles by other bloggers discussing the issue in a much more scientific and and balanced manner (minus the saracasm–well, mostly), and I wanted to publicize them, particularly since they take somewhat different approaches than I did. Abel, as usual, puts things in good perspective, and, hard as it was for me to believe, this Kos diarist, while going into detail on some aspects of the science behind cancer treatments, specifically the p53 oncogene (I emphasized antiangiogenic therapy in my original post), gets in a couple of zingers worthy of Orac:

In addition, I’d like to vehemently squash the notion right out that the NIH is somehow in the pocket of Big Pharma to the degree that they would never fund a study into the efficacy of DCA. This is simply not true, and to peddle in this falsehood makes us liberals look like tin-foil hat-wearing loons. The NIH pays an enormous sum to study cancer every year, including studies into potential anti-cancer drugs.

Preach it, brother!

The non-Orac cluesticks:
The dichloroacetate (DCA) cancer kerfluffle
Dichloroacetate Redux: A Cancer Primer
Cancer cures and the evil of false hope

Please, read them all, if you haven’t seen them already. They basically agree with me, but flesh out the discussion from different perspectives than mine.

ADDENDUM: Walnut has posted his critique on Daily Kos as well.

All Orac posts on DCA:

  1. In which my words will be misinterpreted as “proof” that I am a “pharma shill”
  2. Will donations fund dichloroacetate (DCA) clinical trials?
  3. Too fast to label others as “conspiracy-mongers”?
  4. Dichloroacetate: One more time…
  5. Laying the cluestick on DaveScot over dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
  6. A couple of more cluesticks on dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
  7. Where to buy dichloroacetate (DCA)? Dichloroacetate suppliers, even?
  8. An uninformative “experiment” on dichloroacetate
  9. Slumming around The DCA Site (, appalled at what I’m finding
  10. Slumming around The DCA Site (, the finale (for now)
  11. It’s nice to be noticed
  12. The deadly deviousness of the cancer cell, or how dichloroacetate (DCA) might fail
  13. The dichloroacetate (DCA) self-medication phenomenon hits the mainstream media
  14. Dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer: Magical thinking versus Tumor Biology 101
  15. Checking in with The DCA Site
  16. Dichloroacetate and The DCA Site: A low bar for “success”
  17. Dichloroacetate (DCA): A scientist’s worst nightmare?
  18. Dichloroacetate and The DCA Site: A low bar for “success” (part 2)
  19. “Clinical research” on dichloroacetate by A travesty of science
  20. A family practitioner and epidemiologist are prescribing dichloracetate (DCA) in Canada
  21. An “arrogant medico” makes one last comment on dichloroacetate (DCA)

Posts by fellow ScienceBlogger Abel Pharmboy:

  1. The dichloroacetate (DCA) cancer kerfuffle
  2. Where to buy dichloroacetate…
  3. Local look at dichloroacetate (DCA) hysteria
  4. Edmonton pharmacist asked to stop selling dichloroacetate (DCA)
  5. Four days, four dichloroacetate (DCA) newspaper articles
  6. Perversion of good science
  7. CBC’s ‘The Current’ on dichloroacetate (DCA)

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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