Anti Cancer Drug that is too Cheap

DCA (dichloroacetate) is capable of of suppressing the growth of of cancer cells without affecting normal cells.

Investigators at the University of Alberta have recently reported that a drug previously used in humans for the treatment of rare disorders of metabolism is also able to cause tumor regression in a number of human cancers growing in animals. This drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), appears to suppress the growth of cancer cells without affecting normal cells, suggesting that it might not have the dramatic side effects of standard chemotherapies.

Cancer cells, unlike normal cells produce their energy through glycoloysis – the anaerobic breakdown of sugars. This is because most cancer cells function in an oxygen deprived (anaerobic) environment. The DCA activates the mitochodria in the cancer cells. The mitochondria in cells are responsible for producing energy in oxygen rich environments, but they also activate apoptosis (cell death). Cancer cells with reawakened mitochondria wither and die.

The next step is to run clinical trials of DCA in people with cancer. These may have to be funded by charities, universities and governments: pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to pay because they can’t make money on unpatented medicines. The pay-off is that if DCA does work, it will be easy to manufacture and dirt cheap.

That is the big news — the real shortcomings of the market economy. We may have a drug that is highly effective for treating many different forms of cancer,but the 600 to 800 million dollars to fund the clinical trials likely won’t come from pharmaceutical companies because the drug can not be patented—it is too old. This is how capitalism works – not for the common good but for profit. Economy and profit are placed above human suffering and any real benefit to most of the people involved. The story is not really than new – a look at the the history of treating malaria is a good example. But, previously it was the poorer nations that had been affected before.

I think as a society we should stop this blind rush of faith in the marketplace. This discussion has been missing because we have placed our full confidence the the “god-like” powers of the all powerful marketplace. We need a real evaluation to define the areas where the market economy can make a difference and provide more efficient service and a reasonable cost and where it will merely drive up the prices and serve only those making the final product. The economy should be made to serve the interests of society when society is made to serve the economy and a few specialized interests something is definitely not right.


2 responses to “Anti Cancer Drug that is too Cheap

  1. Sara February 23, 2007 at 12:13 am

    Hello my good friend. I like what you report. You have a great eye for stories that can make a difference. Don’t ever stop. You might just save a life someday.

  2. niransab April 19, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks for the positive comments, Sara.

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