Study Reveals That Ketogenic Diet May Improve Effectiveness of Some Mesothelioma Drugs

Malignant mesothelioma is one of many forms of cancer treated with a new class of drugs that target the PI3K enzyme.

The enzyme, which is activated by insulin, has been found to play an important role in some of the most common genetic mutations seen in cancerous tumors, and that made it a target for drugs used to treat 20 different types of cancers.

However, researchers have been frustrated by the fact that those drugs have not been as effective as hoped in controlling the enzyme.

Researchers from the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine at Cornell University have found that when patients adhere to a low-carbohydrate, high fat diet called the ketogenic diet, it improves the drug’s effectiveness.

The study, which focused on drugs used to treat mesothelioma as well as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, lymphomas, leukemias and endometrial cancers, was based on the researchers’ knowledge that drugs that target PI3K “may not be effective unless patients can maintain low blood sugar levels through diet or medication,” according to senior author Lewis C. Cantley.

“We demonstrated that if we keep insulin down with the ketogenic diet, it dramatically improves the effectiveness of these cancer drugs. The ketogenic diet turned out to be the perfect approach.”

Prior to this test researchers have found that patients taking drugs targeting PI3K have developed hyperglycemia because the pancreas overcompensates and makes more insulin. This has sometimes led to patients needing to discontinue the drugs, a disappointing result since the drugs should stop the growth of cancer cells.

The researchers found that the rising insulin levels negated the impact of the cancer drugs, but that by giving lab animals the ketogenic diet, the glucose and insulin spikes were diminished, and so was tumor growth.

According to one researcher, “The ketogenic diet turned out to be the perfect approach. It reduced glycogen stores, so the mice couldn’t release glucose in response to PI3K inhibition. This suggests that if you can block spikes in glucose and the subsequent insulin feedback, you can make the drugs much more effective at controlling cancer growth.”

The researchers were quick to warn that the ketogenic diet alone could not stop the growth of cancer tumors. Rather its impact was to counter the body’s reaction to a cancer drug.

Every day more is learned about how best to treat malignant mesothelioma and extend patients’ lives. For more information on many of the options available, contact the Patient Advocates the today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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