A Potential Treatment For Deadliest Brain Cancers

Gliobastoma MRI: image via School of Medicine, Washington University in St. LouisGliobastoma MRI: image via School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis A compound called Dichloroacetate (DCA) has been tested at the University of Alberta (U of A) as a potential treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, since before 2007.  At that time, the research evidence showed that DCA reverses cancer growth in non-human models and in test tubes.  This time, the research team studied the effects of DCA on human glioblastomas....

Glioblastomas were extracted from 49 patients over a two-year period and treated with DCA.  Results showed that the tumors rapidly responded to DCA by changing their metabolisms, specifically the way they metabolized sugars. 

The team then tested 5 patients with glioblastomas. DCA was given to the patients for three months before the blood levels reached significant levels to alter the tumor's metabolism.  There were no negative side effects of the drug, except in cases where the levels were greater than necessary.  In those, the patients suffered mild neuropathy in their extremities (fingers and toes), but they reversed when the dosage was lowered. 

The study, published in the current issue of Science Translational Medicine, warns that no conclusions should be drawn until further, larger, studies are conducted on humans, and if the funding comes through, U of A will continue its research.

Because DCA is a chemical that is readily available (i.e., not patentable), there were no pharmaceutical funds awarded for this research; the funds all came from public donations, including philanthropic foundations and individuals.  U of A and Alberta Health Sciences provided support as well. The research team was multi-disciplinary, coming from U of A departments of Medicine, Diagnostic Imaging and Biomedical Engineering, Oncology and Neurosurgery.

Thank you, U of A team!

sources: EurekAlert, Science Translational Medicine