Warnings issued on untested cancer drug

In collaboration with the Press Association

People are being advised not to risk taking dichloroacetate (DCA) without proper medical guidance after New Scientist magazine reported that some cancer patients are buying the drug online.

The advice follows research demonstrating that the substance slowed tumour growth in rats. DCA has been licensed for the treatment of a rare childhood disease, but not cancer.

Known side effects include liver and nerve damage.

Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, urged patients not to buy DCA because there is not enough evidence to support its use.

"It is understandable that people with cancer will want to try almost anything to treat their disease," said Professor Toy.

He added: "However, there is no evidence to support the use of DCA for treating cancer. Patients would be wise to continue consulting their specialist for advice."

It is thought that more than 30 patients, mainly in the US, have obtained a supply of the drug using the internet or chemical supply companies and that many more are already researching how to buy DCA.