A recent study completed by Valter Longo at the University of Southern California observed the effects of fasting on cancer patients and the results were startling. The scientists involved found that fasting, at least in the short term, helped to toughen normal cells while having no effect on the cancer cells.
Because chemotherapy has so many side effects that kill healthy cells, this discovery could help to improve cancer treatment for the thousands of people going through it every day. When the patients fasted, Longo found that cells were deprived of oxygen and were forced to go into a state of emergency that made them extremely resistant to stress.
Cancer cells, on the other hand, did not enter into the state of emergency that normal cells did when deprived of oxygen, making them more susceptible to the drug treatment. Doctors are hopeful that this will translate to patients being able to withstand higher doses of chemotherapy without harm.
So far, no trials related to the study have been completed on humans. Instead, researchers injected mice with aggressive forms of cancer and then dosed with a potentially life threatening dose of chemotherapy drugs after two days of fasting. The mice that fasted lived, while the control mice that were given regular amounts of food didn’t fare as well. In fact, half of the control mice died in the experiment.
Human cells were then experimented upon in test tubes. Like the mice, the human cells that were deprived of oxygen as a result of short-term starvation had a greater rate of survival than their oxygenated counterparts. The complete results of the study have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.