A ketogenic diet- or a ‘keto’ diet- which is high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrates, may help kill pancreatic cancer cells when combined with a triple-drug therapy. The corresponding research was conducted by The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and published in the journal Med.
While there have been improvements in chemotherapy in recent years, the impact of diet on improving chemotherapy outcomes has not been extensively studied.
In the present study, the researchers tested the effects of the keto diet in conjunction with chemotherapy on mouse models of pancreatic cancer. The keto diet decreased glucose levels in cancer cells, which starved them of energy. The diet also increased levels of ketone bodies, an alternative energy source, further destabilizing the cancer cells.
The environment created by the keto diet, they say, enabled a triple-drug therapy composed of chemotherapy drugs: gemcitabine, nab-paclitaxel, and cisplatin, to then more effectively destroy cancer cells.
They also found that the keto diet induced pro-inflammatory tumor gene expression, which further weakened the cancer.
The researchers noted some limitations to their findings. While their research shows some positive effects, they did not test for the mechanism underlying the combined effects of chemotherapy and the keto diet. Also, as pancreatic cancer mutations in mice often differ from those found in humans, they are unsure whether their results will translate over to humans.
They have thus launched five clinical trials to test their findings. Each trial will include up to 40 patients receiving triple-drug chemotherapy, half of which will also follow a ketogenic diet. The results of these ongoing trials will help the researchers ascertain how the combination of a keto diet and chemotherapy interacts with human cancer cells.