Diet as Cancer Treatment: You Can’t ‘Starve’ Cancer

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Diet as Cancer Treatment: You Can’t ‘Starve’ Cancer

There is no single “cancer diet.”

Cancer cells grow in distinctive patterns that defy normal limitations.

That growth activity requires energy, and so cancer cells metabolize nutrients in different ways from the healthy cells around them. In an attempt to kill the tumor without killing the normally functioning cells, chemotherapy drugs target these pathways inside of cancer cells. This is notoriously difficult, expensive, and prone to toxic side effects that account for much of the suffering associated with the disease.

“For a long time, the prevailing thought was that altered metabolism in cancer cells was the result of genes and mutations that determined metabolism,” says Jason Locasale, a cancer biologist at Duke University. “Now, as we know, it’s a complex interaction of environment and genes, and one of the major factors at play is nutrition.”

The importance of nutrition has long been accepted for conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, diagnoses that come with well-known dietary prescriptions. Even the most commonly used drug in type 2 diabetes, metformin, has been found in clinical trials to be inferior to diet and exercise. Cell biologists like Locasale see extending that line of thinking to cancer as a logical step, because at the cellular level, cancer is also a disease of metabolic pathways.

Read on: Diet as Cancer Treatment: You Can't 'Starve' Cancer

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