Keto Diet May Help with Cancer Therapy

Researchers have recently found that aspects of the ketogenic, or keto diet may make certain cancer treatments more effective. The limited carbohydrates consumed while on this diet can reduce blood sugar and ultimately suppress these drugs’ side effects, according to a study recently published in Nature.

The phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) pathway is often targeted by many inhibitory drugs as a means of cancer treatment, being that it plays a key role in tumor formation. This cellular pathway is activated by insulin; therefore, these inhibitory drugs frequently decrease insulin levels. The pancreas then counters by increasing insulin output. When it is unable to make up for this loss of insulin, glucose accumulates and increases blood sugar. At this point, the patient must typically stop taking the drugs. In addition to this side effect of hyperglycemia, these drugs are often hit-or-miss and have high toxicity. If one were to limit carbohydrate intake, however, these unwarranted effects on blood sugar may be hindered.

A group of researchers led by Benjamin D. Hopkins, postdoctoral associate of Weill Cornell Medicine, researched effects of the PI3K inhibitor buparlisib in mice with pancreatic cancer. They found that the “rebound” elevation of insulin levels activates the PI3K pathway, and essentially cancels out the inhibitory drugs effects. The researchers attempted to combat this with different blood sugar and insulin controlling drugs, and the keto diet.

“The ketogenic diet turned out to be the perfect approach.”

The team found that the ketogenic diet outperformed all the drugs tested in controlling blood sugar and insulin levels, and in suppressing tumor growth signals. “It reduced glycogen stores, so the mice couldn’t release glucose in response to PI3K inhibition,” says Hopkins.

The researchers note that this diet’s efficacy was only displayed in combination with drug treatment, and that the mice on the keto diet with no buparlisib displayed more rapidly proliferating leukemias. This may be evidence that the diet alone enhances, rather than suppresses cancer.

Hopkins and his colleagues hope to take this combination treatment to clinical trials in humans for treatment of breast, blood, and endometrial cancer. They note that they must rule out any toxic effects of this approach, and that any research into PI3K-targeting drugs should involve cautious dietary monitoring.

Source: Medical News Today, Nature