MAR 31, 2015 11:48 AM PDT

Fasting, Less-Toxic Cancer Drug May Work as Well as Chemotherapy

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Fasting in combination with chemotherapy has already been shown to kill cancer cells, but a pair of new studies in mice suggests that a less-toxic class of drugs combined with fasting may kill breast, colorectal and lung cancer cells equally well.
A low-toxicity drug combined with fasting, or a diet that mimics the effects of fasting, could be an alternative to chemotherapy.
If shown to work in humans, this combination could replace chemotherapy and make fasting a potent component of a long-term strategy to treat cancer, according to senior author Valter Longo of USC.

Human clinical trials in the United States and Europe are already studying the effectiveness and safety of Longo's strategy of cyclic fasting during cancer treatment.

Published by the journal Oncotarget on March 30, the studies suggest that a low-toxicity drug combined with fasting, or a diet that mimics the effects of fasting, could be an alternative to chemotherapy. The studies are part of a multinational collaboration with the laboratories of Alessio Nencioni at University of Genova and of Lizzia Raffaghello at the G. Gaslini Institute in Italy.

"Like every other cell, cancer cells need energy to survive and keep growing. But cancer cells are fairly inflexible about how they produce that energy, which gives us a way to target them," said Longo, Edna M. Jones Professor of Biogerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. Longo has a joint appointment at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Cancer cells rely heavily on glucose (sugar) from food for energy-they're on overdrive, burning much more glucose than a regular cell to fuel their rapid growth. The phenomenon is called the Warburg effect, named after the German physician who first described it nearly 100 years ago. As such, cancer cells are much more vulnerable to any interruption in supply.

Deprived of glucose, cancer cells rely on an emergency backup-using a type of enzyme called a kinase to continue their growth-related activities.

Longo and his team and collaborators discovered that this metabolic shift by cancer cells causes them to generate toxic-free radicals, which ultimately kills them. In addition, the kinase pathway for generating energy can be blocked by kinase inhibitors, further choking off cancer cells' ability to generate energy. Kinase inhibitors are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a cancer treatment, opening the door to using them and fasting as a one-two punch to knock out cancer.

"However, kinase inhibitors, though much less toxic than chemotherapy, can still be toxic to many cell types. Fasting makes them more effective, meaning that patients would have to use them for less time to achieve the same results," Longo said. "Although we have not yet tested this, we anticipate that fasting will also reduce the toxicity of kinase inhibitors as it reduces that of chemotherapy to normal cells."

Source: University of Southern California
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
You May Also Like
MAY 13, 2021
Cancer
Ovarian cancer screening doesn't save lives, reports new study
MAY 13, 2021
Ovarian cancer screening doesn't save lives, reports new study
New research published in the journal The Lancet highlights the eagerly awaited results of the UK Collaborative Trial of ...
MAY 18, 2021
Cancer
New guidelines change screening age for colorectal cancer to 45
MAY 18, 2021
New guidelines change screening age for colorectal cancer to 45
Following new guideline changes from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), individuals with an average risk ...
MAY 29, 2021
Cancer
New device detects skin cancer from tensile stiffness
MAY 29, 2021
New device detects skin cancer from tensile stiffness
A research team composed of scientists from City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has designed an automated non-invasive ...
JUN 07, 2021
Cancer
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
JUN 07, 2021
Inflammatory-rich diet associated with greater risk of developing breast cancer
A breakthrough study soon to be presented at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE later this week reports that women who main ...
JUN 21, 2021
Cancer
Analyzing breast implant topography and associated immune responses
JUN 21, 2021
Analyzing breast implant topography and associated immune responses
In an effort to understand how breast implants influence the immune system, researchers from MIT have led an analysis to ...
JUL 13, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Friend or Foe? New Cancer-Tracking Pen Guides Surgeons.
JUL 13, 2021
Friend or Foe? New Cancer-Tracking Pen Guides Surgeons.
Researchers have developed the first diagnostic “pen” that acts as a guide for surgeons, helping them distin ...
Loading Comments...