Fasting increases survival times, stops cancer growth and reduces drug side-effects

There has recently been an increase in the number of studies looking into fasting with cancer patients. Fasting seems to have a number of benefits when used with, or without chemotherapy. For example, it seems to slow and even stop the growth of the cancer, it can reduce side-effects; it improves drug effectiveness and may even mean less of the toxic drug is required.

The National Cancer Institute of America is interested in fasting because they recognize that the foods you eat can affect the way your body absorbs and reacts to drugs. 

For them, fasting may well be a way of helping chemotherapy deliver better results, with less side-effects and more cost-effectively.

They quote the work of Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biological science at the University of Southern California (USC) who in various studies since 2008 has shown that fasting for two to three protected healthy cells in both cultures and living mice with cancer tumours from chemotherapy drugs without protecting cancer cells. They called this ‘differential stress resistance’.

The researchers then published a study of 10 elderly cancer patients who voluntarily underwent short-term fasting before and/or after chemotherapy. The patients reported far fewer side-effects. In 2012 in response to arguments that fasting might promote cancer growth, the same team produced further research (Science Translational Medicine; 7 March 2012) showing that fasting makes cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy. Fasting actually stopped cancer cells producing protection proteins from their mutated genes, while healthy cells made more protective proteins. As a result the healthy cells stop dividing and are less attacked by the chemotherapy resulting in lowered side-effects. In some combinations of fasting and chemotherapy the tumours actually disappeared. So fasting can improve effectiveness. And reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy.

But the team identified a second factor working against the cancer cells: Fasting deprives a cancer cell of glucose. Dr Longo describes these as two stressors acting simultaneously.

Indeed, in animal studies (mice with implanted breast cancer, melanoma or glioma cells) short-term fasting alone delayed tumor growth to the same extent as treatment with the drug cyclophosphamide

In mice with cancer, fasting plus chemo significantly increased survival times and metastases. The UCS team showed that mice with brain tumours who fasted had a 20 to 40 per cent longer remission period. 

Clinical Trials are now planned.

(Ed: So much for the NHS booklets that encourage patients to eat cheeseburgers, sticky buns, and drink milky, sugary tea! We’ve been telling you that they encourage the growth of cancer for 8 years now!).

April - June Cancer Watch 2013
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