Researchers at University of Southern California found that fasting slowed the growth and spread of tumors and cured some cancers when it was combined with chemotherapy . It’s hoped that the findings will lead to the development of more effective treatment plans and further research is now under way, they said.
In experiments on mice, they found tumor cells responded differently to the stress of fasting compared to normal cells. Instead of entering a dormant state similar to hibernation, the cells kept growing and dividing, in the end destroying themselves, they said.
“The cell is, in fact, committing cellular suicide,” lead study author Valter Longo was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. “What we are seeing is that the cancer cell tries to compensate for the lack of all these things missing in the blood after fasting. It may be trying to replace them, but it cannot.”
For the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Longo and his team looked at the impact fasting had on breast, urinary tract and ovarian cancers in mice. Fasting without chemotherapy was shown to slow the growth of breast cancer, melanoma skin cancer, glioma brain cancer and neuroblastoma – a cancer that forms in the nerve tissue.
In every case, combining fasting with chemotherapy made the cancer treatment more effective. But none of the mice survived if they were treated with chemotherapy alone.
According to the researchers, they are already examining the effects of fasting on human patients , but only a clinical trial lasting several years will confirm if human cancer patients really can benefit from calorie restriction.