Could a change in diet boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma? That’s the question that researchers in Texas are trying to answer. They hope that by manipulating blood sugar levels using either diabetes drugs or a ketogenic diet, they can starve cancer cells of one of their most important sources of energy.
Study assesses ketogenic diet’s ability to control cancer growth
The study’s author is Jung-When Kim, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, and though mesothelioma was not the focal point of his research, he does conclude that there is real potential for the use of glucose manipulation in controlling cancer.
“Manipulating host glucose levels would be a new strategy that is different from just trying to kill cancer cells directly,” he says. “Maybe we can manipulate our own biological system a little bit or activate something we already have in place in order to more effectively combat cancer.”
Depriving cells of glucose induces metabolic stress in cancer cells
Earlier research has supported the idea that depriving cancer cells of glucose could have a therapeutic effect, and the approach has also been used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease and polycystic ovary syndrome with some success. For mesothelioma and other cancers, researchers hope that a ketogenic diet could make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy by interfering with their ability to metabolize sugar, or make them more vulnerable to immunotherapy.
Animal studies revealed that restricting circulating glucose through a ketogenic diet significantly inhibited tumor growth in mice with lung cancer when compared to mice fed their normal food. “While these interventions did not shrink the tumors, they did keep them from progressing, which suggests this type of cancer might be vulnerable to glucose restriction,” Kim said. It is unknown whether this effect would extend to mesothelioma tumors, but the research provides oncologists with another avenue of inquiry, especially because another study the group conducted found a correlation between higher blood sugar levels in lung and esophageal cancer patients and worse survival.
If you are a patient who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician before making any adjustments to your diet. For information on other research and resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.