A recent research in mice suggests that following a ketogenic diet (also called keto diet) has beneficial effects during a cancer therapy. It tells that the side effects of new generation cancer drugs can be avoided when the patient is on a keto diet.
The recent years contributed to developing a new class of cancer-treating drugs. These medicines are targeted to a specific molecular pathway that is proven to be faulty in many types of cancers.
These drugs particularly affect cell signaling pathway called phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K). This pathway is activated by insulin. The previous researches on cancer tell that the mutations in this kinase, or enzyme, are present in most of the cancer tumors.
It suggested using more than 50 drugs for the inhibition of this pathway. All of these were clinically trialed to check their efficacy. By far, the results from these trials are not up to the mark. Most of these drugs missed their target or the toxicity level of them is so high that is almost a side effect.
When a person is taking such drugs, it may lead him to hyperglycemia, or abnormally high levels of blood sugar. It happens because the inhibition of the pathway causes a drop in insulin, which increases blood sugar to a much higher level.
When the pancreas fails to make up the loss (i.e. by producing more insulin), the patient has to stop taking the medicine, which interrupts the cancer treatment. This new study led by Benjamin D. Hopkins, a postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, NY has studied one way to get over this problem.
The research is involved around ketogenic diet, which has high fats and low carb intake. Following this diet boosts the working of all these new-generation therapies and prevents any side effect to show up.
This study was published in the journal Nature and is available online to view. Click here to read the complete results.
Insulin and effects of cancer drugs
The researchers examined the effect of a PI3K-inhibiting drug called buparlisib. It study was completed in a mouse model having pancreatic cancer. This model revealed that when insulin levels are increased, as a side effect of using buparlisib, the P13K pathway reactivates itself and the whole process of cancer treatment reverses.
This reactivation of PI3K in the tumor practically makes the treatment drug ineffective and useless. The elevation in insulin is rescuing the tumor from death. If we have to control this effect, there must be a follow up along with drug treatment.
Researchers tried a few different blood sugar and insulin-controlling drugs. All these drugs were tested on mice on and not on a ketogenic diet.
The new research findings
The research findings showed that the mice on the keto diet performed better in maintaining blood sugar and insulin in check and simultaneously inhibiting tumor growth signals. Surprisingly, the ketogenic diet turned out to be an easy solution to this problem. Following a keto diet reduces the glycogen storage so no extra glucose is released when P13K is inhibited.
It suggests that when a user gets a control over sugar and insulin, the cancer drugs tend to work much better in controlling tumor growth. This new study is an innovative way to improve the cancer treatment.
For so many decades, the cancer treatment is under study and yet there is no 100% successful treatment. The researchers try best to change the metabolism for making cancer cells susceptible to chemotherapy or the targeted medicines.
However, the authors mention that this is a combinational approach. The keto diet itself has no role in the inhibition of cancer but may even have the opposite effect. A smaller part of the study was to test the mice on a keto diet, without giving PIK3 inhibitors. Surprisingly, they showed an even faster-growing leukemia which suggests that keto diet doesn’t directly treat cancer.
For future, it is aimed to have combination therapy using human clinical trials in a cancer study.