Could Fasting Help Treat Childhood Cancer?
According to recent research published in the journal Nature Medicine, intermittent fasting may help combat the most common type of childhood Leukaemia – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), also called Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia , is a cancer that begins in immature versions of white blood cells in the bone marrow, called lymphocytes.
All prohibits the maturation of certain cells, which then results in large numbers of immature, leukemic cells being released into the bloodstream, outweighing the number of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
This reduction in healthy white blood cells makes a patient vulnerable to infection, while low levels of platelets and red blood cells can lead to unusual bleeding and anaemia. Other signs and symptoms of ALL include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, rib pain, and bone or joint pain.
According to the American Cancer Society, ALL is the most common form of childhood Leukaemia , accounting for around 3 in 4 Leukaemia cases in children.
Chemotherapy is the primary form of treatment for children with ALL, and more than 95% of children achieve remission after 1 month of induction chemotherapy – that is, they show no signs of Leukaemia in bone marrow samples after an intense chemotherapy drug regimen.
This does not always mean the cancer has gone for good however; ALL recurs in around 15% to 20% of of children who are treated.
In the new study, senior author Dr. Chengcheng Zhang, Associate Professor of Physiology at the University of Texas Southwestern (UT Southwestern) Medical Center, and colleagues suggest fasting could be a feasible treatment for childhood ALL.
Researchers noted that previous studies suggested that fasting could boost the anti-cancer effects of chemotherapy, but the underlying mechanisms for this association have always been unclear.
Dr Zhang and colleagues set out to gain a better understanding of how fasting affects cancer cells in several mouse models of ALL in their study. During the study, the researchers identified one dietary restriction regimen that appeared to kill Leukaemia cells and halt development of both ALL subtypes.
“Strikingly, we found that in models of ALL, a regimen consisting of six cycles of 1 day of fasting followed by 1 day of feeding completely inhibited cancer development,” explained Dr Zhang.
After 7 weeks, the researchers found that the mice that followed the fasting regimen had almost no detectable Leukaemia cells in bone marrow and the spleen – the organ that filters blood – while around 68% of cells were found to be cancerous in the non-fasting mice.
“Although initially cancerous, the few fluorescent cells that remained in the fasted mice after 7 weeks appeared to behave like normal cells. Mice in the ALL model group that ate normally died within 59 days, while 75 percent of the fasted mice survived more than 120 days without signs of Leukaemia .”
The team also found that the spleens and lymph nodes of mice that were subject to intermittent fasting were comparable in size to those of normal mice.
The researchers also tested the effects of fasting on mouse models of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) – a form of Leukaemia that is more common in adults – but they found it had no effect.
According to the researchers, fasting reduces levels of a hormone called leptin – known as the “satiety hormone” because it regulates appetite. Previous studies have shown that in patients with ALL, leptin receptor activity is decreased.
Dr Zhang and team decided to monitor leptin levels and leptin receptor activity in the mouse models. As expected, the researchers identified reduced leptin receptor activity in mice with ALL. However, they found that this activity increased in the mice subject to intermittent fasting.
“We found that fasting decreased the levels of leptin circulating in the bloodstream as well as decreased the leptin levels in the bone marrow,” explained Dr. Zhang.
“These effects became more pronounced with repeated cycles of fasting,” he added. “After fasting, the rate at which the leptin levels recovered seemed to correspond to the rate at which the cancerous ALL cells were cleared from the blood.”
The researchers point out that mouse models of AML already had higher leptin receptor activity, and this activity was not affected by intermitted fasting. This, they say, might explain why fasting has no effect on this type of Leukaemia . Overall, the authors believe their research suggests a possible pathway by which fasting might prevent the development and progression of ALL.
“This study using mouse models indicates that the effects of fasting on blood cancers are type-dependent and provides a platform for identifying new targets for Leukaemia treatments. We also identified a mechanism responsible for the differing response to the fasting treatment.” Dr. Chengcheng Zhang
In future research, the team plans to search for fasting-mimicking strategies that can halt ALL development. Because the study only tested fasting – not drugs – the researchers believe it is possible that progression to human clinical trials may be quicker.
Posted on 21 December, 2016, in Blog, Research and tagged acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia, ALL, cancer, cancer cells, cancer research, cancer treatment, Child Cancer Awareness, childhood cancer, Childhood Cancer Awareness, Children with Cancer, leukaemia, paediatric cancer, Pediatric cancer. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.