Health forums were abuzz in 2007 with news that a simple, inexpensive chemical may serve as a viable treatment to many forms of cancer. The drug dichloroacetate, or DCA, was touted as a cure-all, but after years of work, scientists still are searching for ways to make the unique treatment as effective as possible.
Now, researchers at UGA have discovered a new way to deliver this drug that may one day make it a viable treatment for numerous forms of cancer. They published their findings in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Chemical Biology.
“DCA shows great promise as a potential cancer treatment, but the drug doesn’t find and attack cancer cells very efficiently in the doses researchers are testing,” said Shanta Dhar, an assistant professor of chemistry in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “We have developed a new compound based on DCA that is three orders of magnitude more potent than standard treatments.”
Dhar’s technology, which she calls Mito-DCA, destroys the cancer by focusing on a part of the cell called mitochondria, the place that generates most of the cell’s chemical energy.
“By targeting the mitochondria, we can force cancerous cells to die just as regular malfunctioning cells would,” said Dhar, who is part of the UGA Cancer Center.
In their experiments, Dhar and her research team exposed cancer cells to Mito-DCA. The results showed that the engineered chemical substance was able to switch the glycolysis-based metabolism of cancer cells to glucose oxidation, meaning that the cancer cells can once again die via apoptosis.
Mito-DCA also suppressed the production of lactic acid in cancerous cells, which allows them to avoid detection by the body’s immune system. With this cloaking device damaged, the body’s own T-cells are better able to recognize tumors and eliminate them.
While the UGA researchers’ model focused specifically on prostate cancer, Dhar is hopeful that their technique may prove useful for other forms of cancer.