Pathology

Chemotherapy Effectiveness Improved by Fasting



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Chemotherapy destroys normal cells and cancer cells at the same time. Medical science is constantly looking for ways to specifically target the cancer cells at a greater rate than normal body cells. One way to do this is to create a differential stress resistance method which focuses on protecting the normal cells.

A surprisingly simple answer has been found in the ancient practice of fasting. In research studies conducted at reduction in cancer by 40-42%. The rate of cancer reduction depended upon the type of cancer the animals had. The animals not only showed less cancer, but also survived longer than the well-fed mice.

Animal research has been conducted. When the initial research came out in 2008, the scientific community was concerned that the cancer cells were being protected as well. A five year study was conducted and published in Science Translational Medicine in February 2012. The authors state, “These studies suggest that multiple cycles of fasting promote differential stress sensitization in a wide range of tumors and could potentially replace or augment the efficacy of certain toxic chemotherapy drugs in the treatment of various cancers.”

Why fasting works

Cancer cells are a problem because they never stop growing. They continually grow and divide. Normal cells can change from growing and dividing to a stable stage. Fasting stresses normal cells. They turn their focus inward to maintain the health of the cell. On the other hand, cancer cells lack this ability to change in response to the environment. They continue to grow even in the face of starvation. This weakens the cell and increases the susceptibility of the cancer cell to chemotherapy. The authors of this study call this a differential stress resistance. The fasting could increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy without having to increase the toxicity of the drugs to the human patient.

This work on animal studies is very promising for human patients. While researchers caution that more research is needed to determine if there are any serious consequences to the patient, the outlook is very promising. Anything that increases patient survival and reduces the toxic effects of chemotherapy on the body is worth pursuing. In 2010, a small study of 10 human patients showed that they felt better when fasting before chemotherapy. More research needs to be done to confirm the safety of fasting for humans. It is dangerous to assume that mice and human bodies will react identically in this situation. Ask your doctor before trying anything in addition to your prescribed treatment.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18378900?dopt=Abstract
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fasting-might-boost-chemo
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22323820