In a new study, researchers have paired a ketogenic diet and a tumor-fighting drug and found that this combo could help fight an aggressive form of brain cancer.
The combo is non-toxic and can help destroy the two major cells in brain cancer.
The research was conducted by an international team from Boston University and Harvard University.
Previous research has shown that the carbohydrate glucose and the amino acid glutamine are the two major fuels in the body that can drive the growth of glioblastoma, a fast-moving brain cancer.
This primary human brain tumor has resisted effective medical treatments and interventions for decades.
However, few studies have targeted these fuels for therapeutic management of cancer.
In the study, the team examined the diet-drug intervention in mice which have cancer closest to glioblastoma in humans.
They combined a low-calorie diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates with a tumor-inhibiting antibiotic called DON as a new treatment.
They were surprised to see that the restricted ketogenic diet facilitated the delivery of DON through the blood-brain barrier.
This treatment could destroy cancer stem cells and mesenchymal cells, two major cells in glioblastoma.
The results showed that the diet-drug therapy killed tumor cells while reversing disease symptoms, and improving overall mouse survival.
In addition, the treatment allowed a lower dosage to achieve a therapeutic effect.
The researchers believe the finding can provide a non-toxic therapeutic strategy that could be used to manage the deadly brain cancer.
The current treatment offers a median life expectancy of 15 to 16 months, often with strong side effects.
This new treatment may help patients live longer and even recover some brain functions.
Future work needs to see if the diet-drug therapeutic synergy found for glioblastoma could also be seen for other cancers.
One lead author of the study is Boston College Professor of Biology Thomas N. Seyfried.
The study is published in the Nature group journal Communications Biology.
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