Fasting makes brain tumors more vulnerable to radiation therapy

A new study from USC researchers is the first to show that controlled fasting improves the effectiveness of radiation therapy in cancer treatments, extending life expectancy in mice with aggressive brain tumors.

Prior work by USC professor of gerontology and biological sciences Valter Longo, corresponding author on the study and director of the Longevity Institute at the USC Davis School of , has shown that short-term fasting protects healthy cells while leaving vulnerable to the toxic effects of chemotherapy.

The latest study, appearing online once the embargo lifts in PLOS One, is the first to show that periods of fasting appear to have the same augmenting effect on in treating gliomas, the most commonly diagnosed brain tumor. Gliomas have a median survival of less than two years.

"With our initial research on chemotherapy, we looked at how to protect patients against toxicity. With this research on radiation, we're asking, what are the conditions that make cancer most susceptible to treatment? How can we replicate the conditions that are least hospitable to cancer?" Longo said.

Longo and his co-investigators studied the combination of fasting with radiation therapy and with the chemotherapy drug Temozolomide, currently the standard treatment for the treatment of brain tumors in adults after an attempt at surgical removal.

They found that controlled short-term fasting in mice, no more than 48 hours each cycle, improved the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy in treating gliomas. Despite the extremely aggressive growth of the type of brain tumor studied, more than twice as many mice who fasted and received radiation therapy survived to the end of the trial period than survived with radiation alone or fasting alone.

"The results demonstrate the beneficial role of fasting in gliomas and their treatment with standard and radiotherapy," the researchers write, who say the results indicate the benefits of short-term, controlled fasting for humans receiving treatment for .

Longo cautions that patients should consult with their oncologist before undertaking any fasting: "You want to balance the risks. You have to do it right. But if the conditions are such that you've run out of options, short-term fasting may represent an important possibility for patients."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The fine line between breast cancer and normal tissues

7 hours ago

Up to 40 percent of patients undergoing breast cancer surgery require additional operations because surgeons may fail to remove all the cancerous tissue in the initial operation. However, researchers at Brigham ...

Pancreatic cancer risk not higher with diabetes Rx DPP-4i

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—There is no increased short-term pancreatic cancer risk with dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 inhibitors (DPP-4i) compared to sulfonylureas (SU) and thiazolidinediones (TZD) for glycemic control, according ...

Good bowel cleansing is key for high-quality colonoscopy

11 hours ago

The success of a colonoscopy is closely linked to good bowel preparation, with poor bowel prep often resulting in missed precancerous lesions, according to new consensus guidelines released by the U.S. Multi-Society Task ...

New rules for anticancer vaccines

12 hours ago

Scientists have found a way to find the proverbial needle in the cancer antigen haystack, according to a report published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

User comments