Calorie Restriction as a Possible Cancer Treatment

At Duke University, the institutional review board has given the green light for a first-time randomized trial to demonstrate the effect of calorie restriction on cancer treatment and prevention.

While there have been some studies on calorie restriction in relation to cancer, the Duke study is the first to be randomized. Single-group studies to demonstrate the effects of calorie restriction are currently underway at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and University of Iowa.

The Duke study may prove to be groundbreaking, and is being closely watched by the international cancer treatment community.

“During the past 10 years or so, interest in the metabolism of cancer cells has seen a dramatic increase, which is surely why interest in dietary interventions…has increased,” said Rainer Klement, MD, a radiation oncologist at the University Hospital of Würzburg in Germany. “The time is definitely ripe to test the various ways of altering cancer patients’ metabolism — be it through physical exercise, ketogenic diets, fasting, or calorie restriction. The combination of these lifestyle interventions with the standards of care seems very promising to me.”

Klement and colleagues published a paper on carbohydrate restriction in relation to cancer treatment and prevention two years ago. The hypothesis of their paper was that carbohydrate restriction may inhibit cancer cell growth, and it is supported by laboratory science.

Similar to Klement’s study, the Duke study will focus specifically on men who have prostate cancer and the role carbohydrate restriction may have on such patients who have not responded favorably to traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Roughly 60 men will either receive a low-carb diet or their usual daily foods.

In the study at Jefferson University, breast cancer patients will have restricted caloric intake in conjunction with radiation therapy. The hope is that the caloric restriction will have a synergistic effect with the radiation.

At the University of Iowa, caloric reduction is being combined with chemotherapy for pancreatic and lung cancer patients. “Preclinical data from mouse studies indicates a ketogenic diet increases tumor cell killing,” the University of Iowa researchers stated in their project descriptions.