The Link Between Copper and Cancer

At this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in the spring, a small study of 75 women in a Phase 2 cancer trial stunned some researchers with its results. A number of women in the trial, which began eight years ago, had stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer, normally a death sentence. Yet five years later, 62 of the women in the study, all of whom had serious breast cancers, were free of tumors. Twelve of the 15 women with stage 4 triple negative breast cancers, who had a life expectancy of less than a year, had no detectable cancer.


Copper is an essential element required by all living things on Earth, but in humans, too much or too little can play havoc with health. 

The drug the women were taking is tetrathiomolybdate, which chelates copper out of humans. Copper has been shown to play a significant role in tumor growth. Previous cancer trials with the drug had failed, and this study did not have a placebo control arm.

But researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College who ran the trial want to go on to a Phase 3 study.

Last month, an article in the journal Science noted that rights to the drug are controlled by a Swedish company, Wilson Therapeutics, that is in trials with the drug against Wilson disease, an infrequent inherited disease that causes a person to accumulate copper in their system. The company is not interested in pursuing a cancer study at this time, the journal reported. Tetrathiomolybdate is also a veterinary drug used to control copper poisoning in sheep.

Science reported that Linda Vahdat, a researcher at Weill Cornell who is trying to start up the Phase 3 trial, wants to use Wilson’s version of the drug because it can be taken once a day. Wilson, according to Science, has agreed to provide the drug at cost, but Vahdat has so far failed to find funding for the study, which could cost millions of dollars.

Tetrathiomolybdate is not likely to be a silver bullet against all breast cancers, or other cancers, but the study and research with mice indicates it may be unusually effective at stopping the recurrence of cancer in patients who are experiencing remission. Modern cancer therapies can often put patients into remission, but many of them then find that their cancers metastasize.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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