Fasting with Less Toxic Chemotherapy May be as Effective as Standard Treatments

Less toxic drug class combined with fasting may kill breast, lung, and colon cancer cells equally well.

Less toxic drug class combined with fasting may kill breast, lung, and colon cancer cells equally well.

A new approach to cancer treatment may eventually lead to the use of less toxic drugs with equally effective results.

A recent study found that the combination of fasting with less toxic chemotherapy drugs can kill breast, colorectal, and lung cancer cells equally as well as standard chemotherapy treatments. Published in the March 31, 2015 edition of Oncotarget, the study noted that this combination could replace chemotherapy as fasting becomes a potent part of long-term cancer care strategies.

"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," senior author Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute, said in a press release.

Due to the reliance of cancer cells on glucose from food for energy, these cells burn significantly more glucose than a regular cell to fuel rapid growth, which is known as the Warburg effect. The result of this effect is that cancer cells are more vulnerable to a glucose supply interruption.

When cancer cells are deprived of glucose, it relies on the kinase enzyme to continue the growth process. During the study, the researchers found the metabolic shift by cancer cells causes the production of toxic-free radicals, which ultimately kills off the harmful cells.

Meanwhile, when the kinase pathway is blocked by kinase inhibitors, it reduces the ability of cancer cells to generate energy.

"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 added. "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."