Fasting and chemotherapy protection in patients – Study


Cell Cycle. 2010 Dec 7;9(22):4474-6

Raffaghello L, Safdie F, Bianchi G, Dorff T, Fontana L, Longo VD.

Andrus Gerontology Center, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Chronic calorie restriction has been known for decades to prevent or retard cancer growth, but its weight-loss effect and the potential problems associated with combining it with chemotherapy have prevented its clinical application. Based on the discovery in model organisms that short term starvation (STS or fasting) causes a rapid switch of cells to a protected mode, we described a fasting-based intervention that causes remarkable changes in the levels of glucose, IGF-I and many other proteins and molecules and is capable of protecting mammalian cells and mice from various toxins, including chemotherapy. Because oncogenes prevent the cellular switch to this stress resistance mode, starvation for 48 hours or longer protects normal yeast and mammalian cells and mice but not cancer cells from chemotherapy, an effect we termed Differential Stress Resistance (DSR). In a recent article, 10 patients who fasted in combination with chemotherapy, reported that fasting was not only feasible and safe but caused a reduction in a wide range of side effects accompanied by an apparently normal and possibly augmented chemotherapy efficacy. Together with the remarkable results observed in animals, these data provide preliminary evidence in support of the human application of this fundamental biogerontology finding, particularly for terminal patients receiving chemotherapy. Here we briefly discuss the basic, pre-clinical, and clinical studies on fasting and cancer therapy.

Chanchal’s Commentary

Despite the small sample size, it is none the less very exciting to see yet another of the tenets of holistic medicine be verified in a clinical setting. Simply put, healthy cells can tolerate and adapt to a short term calorie restriction, much as might have occurred in primitive times and to which we are therefore well adapted. Cancer cells, however, fail to slow down metabolism in the face of calorie restriction. They continue to replicate rapidly and run high metabolic rate which makes them uniquely sensitive to chemotherapy. In this study, when people fasted for 48 hours prior to receiving chemo it allowed lower side effects as more drug entered the target cells. Hopefully future research will confirm better outcomes as well.

Remember, complete fasting is probably not a good idea for most people. however, it is recommended to keep to vitamins and minerals quite high while severely restricting calories. So nothing sweet or cooked at all but OK with simple vegetable broths (liquid only, not the vegetables themselves) green vegetable juices, miso broth, water and herbal teas. Use a nutrition replacement powder if becoming weak or faint.

If you are on a protocol of natural supplements and herbs you may want to discontinue them at this time. Most oncologists want patients off everything during chemo, and while we may argue that this is not necessary, sometimes it is better just to stop for a few days anyway to keep everybody happy. And many supplements are required to be taken with food so this is a good opportunity to take a few days break. Start back as soon as you are finished the chemo cycle. If your chemo goes on several or many days in a row then stick to the plainest, simplest food you can at a very low calorie count. Steamed greens, leafy green salad, poached fish (water and herbs or broth), soft boiled or poached eggs, and the liquids as above. Eat no fruit nor any vegetbles that are technically fruits (tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, squash) or tubers / starch storage organs (potatoes, carrots, beets).

See also
Calorie Restriction Enhances Cancer Treatment 

Comments are closed.