Cancer and Diet

Category: Health Resources

The complexities of cancer are apparent from the incredible amount of literature that the medical community produces every year. Cancer is complex, it is not a single disease but an evolving mutation of genes that follow their own rules in the body. Recently we posted an exciting article about how doctors found that fasting made the body stronger for chemotherapy. Now scientistss say that in some instances of cancer a high calorie diet may prevent certain cancers. Again it is important that different cancer studies reflect different cancers and different cancers are indeed different from each other.

A change of diet to unmask cancer vulnerabilities and reduce cancer risk

Many recent studies showed that calorie restrictions reduce the incidence of cancer, whereas high-calorie diets cause obesity and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of developing cancers. However, tumor biology still hides complex mechanisms, as revealed by researchers from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland. In a study published in Cell Metabolism, scientists not only found the unexpected benefit that a change of diet had on certain types of lung cancer, they also deciphered the molecular mechanism underlying this dietary effect and showed how this cancer vulnerability could be exploited in targeted treatment strategies with limited side effects.

Unlike tumors caused by other oncogenes, KRAS-driven tumors, an oncogenic mutation common in lung, pancreas and colon cancers, are known to be sensitive to dietary restrictions.

Although the effect of calorie restriction on these tumors is widely studied, Professor Roberto Coppari and his team from the Department of Cell Physiology and Metabolism at UNIGE’s Faculty of Medicine, with colleagues from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and from the Ancona University, decided to explore what would the outcomes of a change of diet be (from low to high-calorie diet).

Surprisingly, they discovered that a high-calorie diet could have a potent anti-tumor action if the switch of diet took place before the tumor onset. Conversely, a high-calorie diet started after the tumor onset fueled tumor growth and worsened prognosis.

The fact that the moment of dietary change is crucial indicates that this effect is not due to the diet per se but to the metabolic changes it engenders. “Our study does not show that, by eating junk food, people would be protected from lung cancer. But the high-calorie diet helped us discover a very specific molecular mechanism required for lung tumor cells to proliferate that could pave the way for new therapeutic approaches”, underlines Giorgio Ramadori, the study’s co-first author with Georgia Konstantinidou.1