Clinical trials planned to test controversial drug

In collaboration with the Press Association

An experimental drug that has received significant media attention this year is to be tested for cancer treatment.

Dichloroacetate (DCA) is used to treat a rare childhood metabolic disease.

Earlier this year it was shown to shrink tumours in rats but has yet to be tested for treating cancer in humans.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently closed down a website that was selling the controversial treatment after media coverage led to people with cancer buying the drug online.

Some researchers have claimed that the drug may cause fewer side-effects than conventional cancer treatments, but it is a known environmental pollutant and has even been found to cause cancer in animals.

However, the drug's potential to treat cancer - as well as the promising results in animal tests at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada - have convinced Health Canada to give permission for an authorised trial.

The drug will be tested on 50 people with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma to determine whether it has the potential to be a viable and safe cancer treatment.

Lead researcher Evangelos Michelakis told New Scientist: "We've obtained human ethics approval as well, and we plan to start immediately."