Fasting can help cancer patients survive longer

April 1st, 2008 - 2:36 pm ICT by admin  

New York, April 1 (IANS) Fasting has uses other than cleansing the human system of toxins - it protects healthy cells against chemotherapy, according to a study. In the study, mice that were fasting remained unaffected even when dosed highly with chemotherapy. The same dose killed half the normally fed mice or caused lasting weight and energy loss in survivors, according to researchers at the University of Southern California.

Chemotherapy, however, does extend the lifespan of mice injected with aggressive human tumours, the researchers pointed out.

Oncologists could thus control cancers much better - and even cure some - if a way was found to ensure that chemotherapy were not so toxic to the rest of the body. Fasting could be the solution.

“This is not just one more anti-cancer treatment that attacks the cancer cells. To me, that’s an important conceptual difference,” said Felipe Sierra of the National Institute on Aging.

Sierra was referring to decades of efforts by thousands of researchers working on “targeted delivery” of drugs to cancer cells.

Instead, the new study focused on protecting all the other cells. Findings of the study have appeared online in the latest edition of the journal PNAS.

Sierra added that progress in cancer care has made patients more resilient and able to tolerate fasting, should clinical trials confirm its usefulness.

“We have passed the stage where patients arrive at the clinic in an emaciated state. Not eating for two days is not the end of the world,” Sierra said.

The idea for the study came from previous research on aging in cellular systems, primarily lowly baker’s yeast.

About five years ago, researchers were thinking about the genetic pathways involved both in the starvation response and in mammalian tumours.

When the pathways are silenced, starved cells go into maintenance mode characterised by extreme resistance to stresses. In essence, the cells are waiting out the lean period, much like hibernating animals.

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