About a year ago the chemical compound dichloroacetate was in the news as a potential miracle cure for cancer shortly after a scientist at the University of Edmonton published experimental results showing human cancers melting off of lab rats in a matter of a few weeks with virtually no adverse side effects. As it turned out the Edmonton scientist had kept his experiments confidential for two years while he filed patents and tried to find a pharmaceutical company to fund clinical trials. The fly in the ointment is that dichloroacetate (DCA) has been around a long time and used in the treatment of a rare mitochondrial genetic disorder. The drug itself isn’t patentable but technically the therapeutic procedure to treat cancer with it can be patented but those patents are weak and drug companies won’t rely on them to protect their investment in a hundred million dollar clinical trial. No pharmaceutical companies were willing to fund the trials, no one else can afford the trials, so whatever the potential is for cancer treatment in humans remains unknown and there is no progress being made to find out.
Then a guy in California heard about it and collaborated with a cancer drug chemist at the University of California to develop a manufacturing process for cheap pharmaceutical grade DCA. After getting the process worked out and the drug being produced and marketed for experimental use in animals (which is legal) the FDA quickly stepped in and shut it down saying the animal use disclaimer was no more than a thinly veiled way to make it available for people with cancer to self-medicate. That was true enough – the animal use disclaimer was a ruse. The shutdown was about 6 months ago. The drug was available for people to try for about 3 months. A number of them tried and recorded their results on a blog provided by the DCA manufacturer. The cost of a month’s supply of the drug was about $50. The results people obtained were mixed and due to the anecdotal nature and small number of uncoordinated informal trials were unreliable.
Now a news story just came out about yet another university scientist who discovered DCA’s potential to treat cancer at around the same time the Edmonton scientist was running his experiments. This university filed 25 patents and also was unsuccessful in finding a pharmaceutical company willing to invest in clinical trials. So the potential miracle cure for cancer that costs next to nothing and has virtually no side effects compared to other cancer chemo-therapies remains an untested potential years after its discovery and it appears as if it will remain untested forever all because no one can figure out a way to make a profit from it. Isn’t that just precious.
CU cancels agreement with pharmaceutical company
By WAYNE HEILMAN
January 7, 2008 – 11:02PM
The University of Colorado has canceled an agreement with Agada Pharmaceuticals Inc. to license chemical compounds developed by a faculty member to treat cancer.
Denver-based Agada, previously known as Newellink Inc., violated the 2003 agreement by “failing to meet its obligations,” prompting the university to end the agreement in October, said David Allen, the university’s associate vice president for technology transfer.
As a result of the cancellation, rights to the compounds developed by Karen Newell, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs associate biology professor, go back to the university, which is in “discussions” with three or four potential licensees, Allen said.
“We believe that this is very (marketable) technology,” said Allen, who hopes to sign a new license agreement for the technology this year.
Newell’s research at UCCS and University of Vermont found that the chemical compound dichloroacetate robs cancerous tumors of energy they need to grow.
The university has 25 patents awarded or in various stages of approval covering the compound and its use to treat cancer.
As a result of the cancellation, Newell said Agada has shut down. She started the company in 2002 to turn her research into marketable products but never got the compound into clinical trials despite $2.1 million in investments from a California family.
Newell last year sought out David Drake, who had headed Fitzsimmons BioBusiness Incubator in Aurora, to rescue the company from near failure, but she said he wasn’t able to raise the money needed to make license payments to the university or begin clinical trials.
Click here to read all the past articles I’ve written as this DCA saga unfolded…