According to latest research, the relationship between fasting and chemotherapy outcomes is a symbiotic one. By using fasting practices, along with sessions of chemotherapy, it is an effective strategy in combating cancer cells.
Chemotherapy involves the use of strong drugs to eradicate cancer cells, resulting in numerous side effects. Toxic chemicals which kill cancer cells can also travel to various organs, especially the brain, where it can cause excessive damage. In the holistic community, fasting has always been considered the greatest remedy for detoxification, and the best way of eradicating disease.
The symbiotic relationship between fasting and chemotherapy outcomes is welcomed news, as this can have far-reaching benefits toward the survival rate of a cancer patient. Lead researcher, Dr. Longo (gerontology/biological sciences) from the University of Southern California, first became interested in the effects of fasting on yeast and other organisms 15 years back. He found that by starving yeast colonies, they would go into famine mode, and lay dormant until they were fed again. This revelation led to other studies that showed fasting actually protected normal cells from damaging effects of chemotherapy.
Later, when the effects of fasting and chemotherapy were examined on mice with various cancers, the findings were astounding. While fasting alone proved effective on cancerous mice, multiple cycles of fasting combined with chemo reduced aggressive cancers in mice by 20%; those with lesser spread of cancer, improved by 40%. Mice treated with chemo alone did not survive.
When placed in a state of starvation, cancer cells react differently from normal cells. While normal cells generally go into hibernation when deprived of nutrients, cancer cells do the opposite, making new proteins to continue growing and dividing. However, this frenetic activity causes a rippling effect where free-radical damage goes crazy, and cancer cells begin to destroy their own genetic makeup, resulting in virtual self-destruction. As Professor Longo puts it, cancer cells are basically "committing cellular suicide". By trying to replace what is missing in the blood, cancer cells destroy themselves because they can not replicate nor replace what is missing.
When the body fasts, mutations in cancer cells also lose their adaptability and become more sensitive to toxins such as chemo drugs. Therefore, the best way to fight cancer cells is to confuse them with extreme environments like fasting. According to the study, fasting makes tumor cells weaker and more vulnerable. Along with chemo, fasting is able to slow the growth of cancer cells and stop the spread of tumors.
However, testing on mice is one thing, and in humans another, as researchers must determine the safety of any new cancer therapy. Firstly, a patient must be able to tolerate fasting for two days before the chemo, and one day afterwards. Fasting can cause a drop in blood pressure, making some activities dangerous for patients. It can also be a risk factor for patients who have already lost 10% or more of their normal body weight, and onerous for people with diabetes.
Fasting has its limitations; it is not effective on large tumors nor in reducing cancer cell masses, even when combined with chemo. In patients with large tumors, cancer-free survival is rarely achieved. It is believed cells in large tumors may be protected by various mutations that make cancer cells more resilient. Additional information is forthcoming June, 2012, in Chicago, where preliminary clinical trial results will be presented at the annual meeting of ASCO (American Society of Cancer Oncologists).
Ending on an anecdotal note: A 50-year-old woman, mother of five, had triple threat breast cancer, with partial breast mastectomy. Upon reading several books on the benefits of fasting, this woman went on a juice-fasting program for 85 days, 22 months after her last chemotherapy treatment. Presently she has no signs of cancer. Certainly the effects of fasting on chemotherapy outcomes is turning out to be a positive one.