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Ketogenic Diet and Other Dietary Intervention Strategies in the Treatment of Cancer

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Pre-clinical and clinical studies have investigated the role of a dysregulated metabolism in the sustainability of tumor initiation and progression. One of the most familiar metabolic alterations encountered in several types of cancers is the upregulation of glycolysis, which is also maintained in conditions of normal oxygen tension (aerobic glycolysis, Warburg effect) while oxidative phosphorylation is apparently reduced. As a result, cancer cells convert most incoming glucose to lactate. Although more rapid, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production by glycolysis is less efficient in terms of ATP generated per unit of glucose consumed than oxidative phosphorylation. The consequence is that tumor cells require an abnormally higher rate of glucose compared to the normal counterpart. New evidence shows that other metabolic substrates such as glutamine may also have an important role in cancer metabolism. Ketogenic diet (KD) replaces all but non-starchy vegetable carbohydrates with low to moderate amounts of proteins and high amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The rationale of KD is valid both because it lowers carbohydrate uptake possibly leading to cancer cell starvation and apoptosis and, at the same time, increases the levels of ketone bodies available for energy production in normal cells but not in cancer cells which have an allegedly downregulated oxidative phosphorylation. For this reason, several authors speculate on the possibility to evaluate KD as a novel approach in the treatment of cancer. In this review we will assess the data supporting the use of such alimentary regimen and its impact on tumor development and progression.
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Keywords: Cancer; aerobic glycolysis; calorie restriction; carbohydrate restricted; ketogenic diet; low-carbohydrate diet

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2017

This article was made available online on June 14, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Ketogenic Diet and Other Dietary Intervention Strategies in the Treatment of Cancer".

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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