Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Can fasting improve chemotherapy outcomes?

A 2010 paper published in the journal Aging showed that ten cancer patients who underwent fasting cycles perceived fewer side effects of chemotherapy. So the question is whether fasting improves the outcomes of chemotherapy?

New Study

A study published in Science Translational Medicine showed that five out of eight cancer types in mice responded to fasting by slowing the growth and the spread of tumours. Chemotherapy has the same effect on cancers.

Cancers from human cells can be introduced in mice and tested, though that does not guarantee that the same effect will be seen in humans.


Chemotherapy medicines work better when combined with cycles of short, severe fasting. In this trial, fasting was done two days before and one day after chemotherapy.

An aggressive type of children’s neuroendocrine cancer was cured in 20% to 40% of the mice when chemotherapy was combined with fasting cycles. With only chemotherapy, no mouse survived.

The study found that fasting cycles could slow the growth of breast cancer, melanoma, glioma, and human neuroblastoma, without chemotherapy. The fasting cycles were as effective as chemotherapy, in many cases.

Fasting extended survival in mice having human ovarian cancer.

Fasting combined with chemotherapy improved survival, slowed tumour growth, and reduced the tumour spread for all the cancers tested.

In the case of large tumours, fasting and chemotherapy cycles reduced the growth of the mass, but survival could not be improved.

During fasting, normal cells went into hibernation but cancer cells tried to compensate for the lack of nutrients and made new proteins to keep growing. However, that broke down their DNA and caused them to self-destruct. Cancer cells tried to mutate but that made them less adaptable to various extreme environments.


Fasting may not be safe for diabetics or those who have already lost ten per cent of their body weight.

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First published on: 10th February 2012
Image credit: Woman cancer photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com
Last updated on: 21st June 2022


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