Jump to content

Fasting makes cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy

Paul Edwards

Recommended Posts

Paul Edwards (not a doctor) says:


This looks interesting.  Perhaps Chuck Maack may know more about this?  Has anyone discussed it with their oncologist?




Since 2008 Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biological science at the University of Southern California has been investigating whether fasting reduces some of the side effects of chemotherapy.


“Fasting makes things worse for the cancer, when assisted by chemotherapy. It’s the combination of the two treatments which produces the effect. Most people can last for up to 40 days with just water. Normal cells know how to cope with starvation. Cancer cells don’t. They evolved away from starvation.” ABC Science Show 21 April 2012



A transcript of the Science Show’s interview with Dr Longo is available at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/chemotherapy-and-fasting-to-treat-cancer/3963102#transcript  or  http://tinyurl.com/jvlxl86



A more technical explanation of why fasting renders cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy can be found in a bulletin from the US National Cancer Institute Bulletin of 10 July 2012.  This bulletin can be viewed at http://www.cancer.gov/ncicancerbulletin/071012/page5  or http://tinyurl.com/lo28pbf



At the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual General Meeting Dr Longo and colleagues presented the results of a Phase 1 trial which concluded that “Fasting for up to 72 hours around chemotherapy was safe and feasible for cancer pts and resulted in significant decline in insulin and IGF1 levels.”   The abstract is available at http://meetinglibrary.asco.org/content/114231-132 or http://tinyurl.com/lo28pbf


Recently Dr Longo and his colleagues have published the results of further research in the 5 July 2014 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell which showed that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protected against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induced immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.


Co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital said:


“The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy.   More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”


More information about this most recent research is available at https://news.usc.edu/63669/fasting-triggers-stem-cell-regeneration-of-damaged-old-immune-system/ or http://tinyurl.com/klqrvxl


The Mayo Clinic is currently conducting a clinical trial “Short-Term Fasting Before Chemotherapy in Treating Patients With Cancer”: see http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01175837

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You did very well in collecting supporting information, Paul.  I was not aware of these specific studies but find that they somewhat fall in line with the usual suggestion to men with recurring or advanced prostate cancer - or even those with very low PC development at diagnosis, to follow a diet that avoids meat and dairy products but includes more in the line of certain fish as well as vegetables.  In so doing, this would become at least a reduction of food intake and avoidance of that food that has been concluded contributes to PC cell growth, and though not actual "fasting," at least a move in that direction.  


Important as regards actual fasting is to make sure your treating physician is on board and checking your "vitals" regularly to make certain that with either a diet or fasting, your general health is not being affected by this change in food consumption. Some men, at the point of requiring chemotherapy, have already lost what could be a great deal of weight, and I would see in those men that closer attention would be required to ensure that fasting would not cause any adverse effects.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting post, Paul.

I suspect that the same principles might apply to all phases of advanced (and maybe advancing) prostate cancer. Limiting carbohydrates is reputed to be especially effective, since cancer cells need serum glucose to thrive.

Fats aren’t great for PCa either (with the possible exception of fish oil). Does this mean the Atkins protein weight-loss diet plus vegetables might see a resurgence among PCa survivors? Worth a try!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Does this mean the Atkins protein weight-loss diet plus vegetables might see a resurgence among PCa survivors?


No, This research doesn't suggest a recurrence of the Atkins diet.  This article suggests that Dr Longo would not be in favour of the Atkins diet.


Worth a try!

Not without first discussing it with your doctor.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Paul and others,


My brief and somewhat facetious remark about the Atkins protein diet (above) wasn't intended to be taken literally -and I should have mentioned the usual caveats for PCa patients of avoiding red meat and dairy protein - which still leaves fish, chicken, soy, lentils, nuts and seeds (plus vegetables, as I did mention).


Note that the Longo work found an interesting crossover distinction on the effect of high protein (20% vs 10% of calories) on PCa patients, viz that the higher level appeared better for ages 65+, whereas the lower level appeared better for younger men.


There is some (mainly animal-based) evidence that calorie restriction is helpful, which I referred to in my post above as carb restriction, since most PCa patients are already restricting their intake of fats.


I doubt that there are many dieticians, GPs or oncologists (apart from Snuffy Myers and Barry Sears) who would be able to provide good, evidence-based, definitive and structural dietary advice for PCa patients, beyond the exclusions and inclusions referred to above.


Snuffy Myers strongly advocates a Mediterranean diet, while Barry Sears emphasises an optimum balance of the three major food groups, with significant carb reduction featuring strongly - which is consistent with a Mediterranean diet.


Some really useful books on diet management, along with varied and interesting dishes for the PCa fraternity, include the following:-


'Beating Prostate Cancer: Hormone Therapy and Diet' by Snuffy Myers - and the related cookbook (2006)

'The Prostate Cancer Cookbook' by Buffy Sanders (2002)

'The Anti-inflammation Zone by Barry Sears (2005)

'Zone Perfect Cooking Made Easy' by Gloria Baker & Mary Goodbody (2006)

'Living the Low Carb Life' by  Jonny Bowden (2005)


I hope this clarifies things a bit!





Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...