A new study found that high-fat, low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet helped boost certain cancer treatments in mice.
Keto diets didn’t help without the drugs, however, suggesting diet is only one part of the equation.
The first human trial of a similar diet-and-drug combo is set to begin in the fall.
The research aligns with other findings about how tumors thrive on sugar.
Cancer researchers may have just found a groundbreaking new way to make cancer-zapping drugs more effective.
In a recent study, a team of doctors put mice with cancer on low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diets while administering a treatment called a PI3K inhibitor that’s designed to kill tumors. The results, which were reported in the journal Nature last week, showed that pairing that treatment with a keto diet significantly improved the cancer-busting effects of the medication.
“We could basically arrest the growth of the tumor,” Siddartha Mukherjee, the study’s lead co-author and an oncologist at Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, told Business Insider.
Mukherjee, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” said he’d like to see cancer doctors taking a more holistic approach to treatment overall, and that diets like the keto plan could play a key role.
“We hope very much that we would see, in the future, a much more careful assessment of what diet means and how diet can affect chemotherapy,” he said.
This fall, Mukherjee’s team plans to try the diet-plus-drug combo out in people.
Mice on a high-fat diet
The 18 doctors and researchers behind the study come from Weill Cornell Medicine, Columbia University, and New York-Presbyterian hospital. The team also included Lewis Cantley, who’s been studying cancer treatments and diet for decades.
The experiment worked like this: doctors put the rodents on a keto diet, which forces the body to rely on fats for fuel by strictly limiting carbohydrates and sugar as energy sources.
Then the researchers administered the PI3K inhibitor drugs. PI3K (short for phosphoinositide-3-kinase) is an enzyme that’s linked to cancer growth in cells. PI3K inhibitors are a relatively new type of drug — only two are FDA-approved so far — designed to turn off PI3K pathways that fuel cancer cell growth. When it works, the treatment essentially kills the enzyme, which prevents the disease from spreading, leading tumors to die.
The problem is that when patients take PI3K drugs, their blood-sugar levels often spike in response. That, in turn, activates PI3K enzymes all over again, and the cancer continues to spread.
“It’s like hitting the gas and the brake at the same time,” study author Benjamin Hopkins, who worked in Cantley’s lab, told Business Insider.
The new study suggests that a keto eating plan could help mitigate that effect. In mice, the diet reliably controlled blood sugar and insulin levels, lowering them on average 90%, and thus improved the PI3K drug’s ability to keep a mouse’s cancer from spreading. Results varied depending on what kind of cancer the mice had (pancreas, breast, endometrial, bladder …read more
Source:: Business Insider