Big Ideas

Valter D. Longo, Ph.D., Tanya B. Dorff, M.D. and David I. Quinn, MBBS, Ph.D., FRACP

February 27, 2012

Dr. Valter D. Longo, Dr. Tanya B. Dorff and Dr. David I. Quinn of USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center carried out a study that found chemotherapy drugs can be more effective when combined with cycles of short, severe fasting. In addition, fasting on its own was shown to be effective at treating most of the cancers tested in animals, including human cancer cells. The researchers found five out of eight types of cancer in rodents responded to fasting alone. Fasting, like chemotherapy, delayed the growth and spread of tumors. For all cancers the researchers tested, they found that chemotherapy combined with fasting delayed tumor growth and/or limited the spread of tumors and improved survival.

The study’s results may lead to trials with cancer patients that could show if humans would benefit from the same treatment. While fasting may not be an ideal option for everyone, the study demonstrates that fasting makes cancer cells more vulnerable.

“A way to beat cancer cells may not be to try and find drugs that kill them specifically but to confuse them by generating extreme environments, such as fasting that only normal cells can quickly respond to,” explained Longo.

Longo, Dorff and Quinn received a V Foundation Translational Grant in 2008.