New science from Italy suggests that it might eventually be possible to improve mesothelioma outcomes by severely restricting calories during cancer treatment.
The study appears in a recent version of the journal Cancer Discovery. Researchers with Italy’s FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (IFOM) in Milan tested a fast-mimicking diet in 101 cancer patients.
They concluded that restricting calories is a safe and feasible method for “reshaping metabolism” to impact tumor growth. If further studies confirm their findings, it could improve mesothelioma outcomes for thousands of patients.
The Need for Better Mesothelioma Treatments
Mesothelioma is a fast-growing and deadly type of cancer. Most people who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis do not live out the year. Malignant mesothelioma grows on the membranes that surround internal organs. This makes it boths hard to remove and challenging to treat.
The good news is that researchers around the world are searching for ways to improve mesothelioma outcomes. Thanks to their efforts, there are now more treatment options for mesothelioma than ever before.
In the last three years alone, the FDA has approved both a new systemic treatment and a new device. Studies show immunotherapy with Opdivo and Yervoy and the Tumor Treating Fields device can extend survival for some patients.
One downside of these advanced mesothelioma treatments is that they are not appropriate for many patients. Patients have to meet specific criteria to even be considered.
A dietary approach to improve mesothelioma outcomes could apply to more patients. It might also offer a way to boost cancer treatment success without adding to the price tag.
What is a Fast-Mimicking Diet?
A fast-mimicking diet “mimics” a dietary fast by restricting calories. Unlike a fast, an FMD allows for enough calories to prevent nutritional deficiencies. This is especially important during cancer treatment.
Preliminary studies show that this approach makes a big difference in mice with cancer. FMD enhanced anti-cancer treatment by changing the metabolism of the mice and boosting their immune responses.
The new Italian study took a similar approach to improve outcomes in human cancer patients. For five days, 101 cancer patients ate the same restrictive diet. Patients ate up to 600 calories on the first day, then up to 300 calories on each of the next four days.
The regimen was repeated every three to four weeks for up to eight cycles. Patients went through an average of four FMD cycles. Patients who were underweight or at risk for malnutrition were excluded.
How a Diet Might Improve Mesothelioma Outcomes
This study was not specific to mesothelioma. Patients had a variety of different cancers and were on different types of treatment. But the results suggest that this approach might improve mesothelioma outcomes, too.
The researchers report that FMD “profoundly reshapes anticancer immunity”. It reduced serum glucose by18.6%, insulin by 50.7%, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) by 30.3%. These have all been shown to stimulate cancer growth and promote progression.
“Our findings lay the foundations for phase II/III clinical trials aimed at investigating FMD antitumor efficacy in combination with standard antineoplastic treatments,” concludes oncologist Claudio Vernieri, PhD, director of the Metabolic Reprogramming in Solid Tumors program at IFOM.
In the meantime, patients should not attempt to improve mesothelioma outcomes on their own with diet. Restricting calories or changing your diet without careful medical supervision could interfere with cancer treatment and could even be dangerous.
Vernieri, C, et al, “Fasting-mimicking diet is safe and reshapes metabolism and antitumor immunity in cancer patients”, November 17, 2021, Cancer Discovery, https://cancerdiscovery.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2021/11/11/2159-8290.CD-21-0030
Valdemarin, F, et al, “Safety and Feasibility of Fasting-Mimicking Diet and Effects on Nutritional Status and Circulating Metabolic and Inflammatory Factors in Cancer Patients Undergoing Active Treatment”, August 2021, Cancers, https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/13/16/4013