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Effectiveness of cancer treatments boosted by fasting

Short-term fasting is being touted as a potential method of beating cancer after a study found it helped to boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy tre...

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|Feb 10|magazine9 min read

Short-term fasting is being touted as a potential method of beating cancer after a study found it helped to boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments.

Initial research, which was carried out at the University of Southern California, has found that fasting can help to slow the growth rates of cancerous tumours.

When abstaining from food for a short period of time was combined with bouts of chemotherapy, some cancers – including breast cancer, melanoma and giloma cells – were cured.

Although the results of the study (which was carried out on mice) are promising, the researchers are warning much more detailed research, possible lasting years, needs to be carried out in humans to see if the effects of fasting are mirrored.

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It was discovered that the cancer cells were severely affected by fasting and instead of going into hibernation like regular cells they continued to divide and eventually killed themselves.

“A way to beat cancer cells may not be to try to find drugs that kill them specifically but to confuse them by generating extreme environments, such as fasting that only normal cells can quickly respond to,” commented Professor Valter Longo, the study’s lead researcher.

He added: “The cell is, in fact, committing cellular suicide.

“What we're seeing is that the cancer cell tries to compensate for the lack of all these things missing in the blood after fasting.”

Longo continued: “It may be trying to replace them, but it can't.”

However, the scientists are warning that cancer patients should not read this information and start fasting, at least not until further studies have confirmed if fasting does in fact emulate these results in human beings.  

They have also admitted the notion of a cancer patient fasting does come with associated dangers, especially if the patient has already lost a lot of weight through treatment.  

The team has also warned it again might not be a suitable solution for patients with other lifestyle factors that could be aggravated by such dieting; for example, diabetes.

As part of the study fasting was tested against eight different types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer and cancer of the brain.

All eight strains of the disease were treatable by combining fasting with chemotherapy treatments.

The results of the study have now been published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

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