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Technology and Health News > Tuesday, April-01-2008

Fasting might be a weapon against cancer

A study conducted by an Italian and published on Pnas shows that healthy cells, if required to "diet", have an increased resistance to stress caused by the drugs compared with those ill.

Fasting can be a weapon against the heavy effects of chemotherapy. Just as the fight against cancer concentrates its efforts on the so-called magic bullets, drugs capable of selectively target diseased cells from laboratories of the University of Southern California shows a new paradigm: protect healthy cells and then go furiously only against those sick . A team led by biologist Italian Valter Longo, which involved the United States laboratories and the hospital Gaslini of Genoa, has discovered a kind of magic screen that healthy cells (as a result of caloric restriction) have as a defense against chemotherapy. The results of the study appeared on Pnas Early Edition (here a link to the video.)

After restricting the caloric intake for two days of laboratory mice (and, later, even cells in vitro), the researchers noted that the healthy cells were using all available energies for survival, thus becoming more resistant to chemotherapy than cancerous ones. According to the researchers, this is because the cells hungry enter into a quiescent state, called 'maintenance', which is characterized by extreme resistance to stress, and can survive waiting for the end of the lean period. The cancer cells instead, by their nature do not appear to halt the activities and growth, thus spending energy. Fasting animals seem to respond well to treatment, without pain or stress, while guinea pigs that had not been on a diet have died or have shown weight loss and energy loss.

The new approach has been derived from recent studies and now attracts the attention of physicians, in the hope that we can arrive at new approaches that allow higher doses of chemotherapy without side effects on the patient.

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