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
SEP 15, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Molecular 'Anchors' That Hold Cells in Place
SEP 15, 2021
The Molecular 'Anchors' That Hold Cells in Place
Cells in the body are held in place with a kind of molecular anchor, called focal adhesions, where cells are linked to c ...
SEP 28, 2021
Immunology
Cell Therapy Scrubs Tumors, Spares Transplanted Organs
SEP 28, 2021
Cell Therapy Scrubs Tumors, Spares Transplanted Organs
Hepatitis B infections have created a ‘silent epidemic’—infected people don’t display any sympto ...
OCT 04, 2021
Cancer
Good News for Coffee Lovers: A New Study Finds Caffeine Does Not Impact Breast Cancer Risk
OCT 04, 2021
Good News for Coffee Lovers: A New Study Finds Caffeine Does Not Impact Breast Cancer Risk
Reports indicate that caffeine consumption in the United States is greatest in adults aged 50 – 64.  Coincide ...
NOV 04, 2021
Cancer
Giving the Immune System a Kickstart to Improve Immunotherapy Efficacy
NOV 04, 2021
Giving the Immune System a Kickstart to Improve Immunotherapy Efficacy
Despite the incremental success immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) have attributed to the cancer treatment landscape rec ...
NOV 11, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Cancer Pathologist Burnout? AI to the Rescue.
NOV 11, 2021
Cancer Pathologist Burnout? AI to the Rescue.
Diagnosing cancer is hard work. The challenging demands of their caseloads see diagnostic pathologists in many clinical ...
DEC 09, 2021
Cancer
Inflammation: Naughty or Nice List?
DEC 09, 2021
Inflammation: Naughty or Nice List?
Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman physician, first identified the four major characteristics of inflammation in the first ...
Loading Comments...