US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — According to the results of clinical trials, a diet simulating starvation enhances the effect of the initial stages of chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer. The study description is published in the journal Nature Communications.
Doctors and nutritionists from Italy , the Netherlands and the United States conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial of phase 2 diet, recommended for patients undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which is prescribed as a first step, even before surgery, to stop tumor growth.
Starvation-mimicking diets (DIGs) are low-calorie diets that are low in protein and amino acids, designed to trigger metabolic reactions similar to those that occur when starving in water.
Preclinical evidence suggests that short-term fasting and mimicking fasting can protect healthy cells from chemotherapy, while making cancer cells more vulnerable to treatment.
The results of laboratory studies in mice showed that short-term fasting protects animals from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and at the same time increases the effectiveness of treatment. However, clinical trials in real patients have not previously been conducted.
Researchers led by Judith Kroep of the Medical Center of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands from February 2014 to January 2018 observed 131 patients with stage II and III molecular subtype HER2-negative breast cancer. Cancer patients without complicating diseases, primarily diabetes, and overweight were selected in the group.
Observed for three days before and during neoadjuvant chemotherapy, either fasted or did a DIG diet, or ate as usual (control group). DIG consisted of vegetable-based soups, liquids, and tea.
Despite the fact that the toxicity level of the chemotherapy used was the same in all three groups, the treatment efficiency was higher in patients in the first two groups. In addition, they noted a lower level of chemotherapy-induced DNA damage in T-lymphocytes.
Scientists did not find any side effects from the use of a hungry diet.
The authors conclude that short-term fasting cycles or DIG are safe and highly effective as additional assistance to cancer patients with early stages of breast cancer.
“Starvation deprives the multiplying cancer cells of nutrients, reducing their growth factors.
As a result, they are more sensitive to therapy, which contributes to their death,” the researchers write in the article.
In the future, scientists plan to check whether a diet that mimics starvation is also effective in other forms of cancer in combination with traditional treatment.
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