Cancer: fasting increases immunity and the effect of treatments

Two important studies show that a reduction in caloric intake activates the immune system and increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

The majority of drugs used in chemotherapy are very powerful cell poisons that manage to kill cells by preventing them from reproducing. Several observations made in recent years indicate, however, that this cytotoxic action is often not sufficient to eliminate all the tumor cells: to be really effective in the long term, chemotherapy must also restore anti-cancer immune surveillance by activating blood cells. white killers, specialized in the elimination of foreign bodies.

For example, studies show that by killing cancer cells, certain chemotherapy drugs (anthracyclines, oxaliplatin) cause a series of events that will lead to the production of signals capable of activating the immune response. This phenomenon, called “immunogenic cell death”, can in a way be compared to a vaccine, in which dying cancer cells provoke a strong immune response and allow the complete elimination of residual tumor cells.

Caloric restriction activates immunity

Very encouraging preliminary results indicate that the efficacy of chemotherapy can be greatly improved by a drastic reduction in caloric intake. For example, in mice bearing human tumors, fasting for 30 hours increases survival, with almost half of the animals which are still alive 93 days after the end of the treatment while all the animals fed normally had died.

Two recent fundamental studies carried out by teams of French and American scientists suggest that this positive impact of caloric restriction is due to an increase in the anti-cancer activity of the immune system. For example, a diet developed by the laboratory of Dr. Valter Longo, which mimics the positive effects of fasting on the body, has been observed to improve the response of mice with breast tumors and melanomas to chemotherapy by causing a marked increase in killer lymphocytes. In the same line of thought, the injection of substances that mimic the effects of fasting on metabolism caused a decrease in regulatory T lymphocytes (a class of white blood cells that decrease the anti-cancer immune response), which improved the activity of lymphocytes. killers and resulted in a marked reduction in tumor burden.

Eating well means eating less

Dr. Longo’s team is working with several hospitals to determine if calorie restriction improves patient response to chemotherapy treatments, and we should know very soon if these results obtained in animals can be applied. apply to humans. In the meantime, it is worth noting that studies indicate that a fast of up to 72 hours is well tolerated by patients, and appears to be associated with a significant decrease in the side effects of chemotherapy. These observations are not so surprising considering that our metabolism has evolved to function maximally under conditions of food scarcity. Moreover, most of the chronic diseases currently affecting the population, including a large number of cancers, are a direct consequence of overconsumption of food. Eating well could simply mean eating less.

Lee C et al. Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy. Sci Transl Med. 360; 4: 93ra29.

Di Biase S et al. Fasting-mi- micking diet reduces HO-1 to pro- mote T Cell-mediated tumor cyto- toxicity. Cancer Cell 360; 30: 147-30.

Pietrocola F et al. Caloric restriction mimetics enhance anticancer immunosurveillance. Cancer Cell 360; 30: 147-60.

Dorff TB et al. Safety and feasibility of fasting in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy. BMC Cancer 360;27: 360.

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Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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