Diet could play a key role in breast cancer treatment. The news comes from an international study coordinated by IFOM Milan and the San Martino University Hospital of Genoa, with the support of AIRC, just published in the journal Nature, in which a low-calorie plant-based diet has been tested to determine its effect on growth. of the tumor in combination with hormone therapy in mice and patients. There are about 400 thousand women on hormone therapy in Italy, that is three out of four of those who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
The data collected on 36 patients in two clinical studies conducted at the Policlinico San Martino Hospital in Genoa and at the National Cancer Institute of Milan by Filippo De Braud and Claudio Vernieri show that diet cycles prolonged for an average of about six months reduce some factors of growth that contribute to promoting cell proliferation and can influence tumor growth. However, the data are preliminary and need to be confirmed in larger clinical trials. In addition, both the diet cycles and the interval weeks require precise protocols and must be carried out under strict medical supervision. A “do it yourself” approach that would increase the risk of malnutrition is therefore not allowed, a condition that in cancer patients can be very dangerous, undermining the outcome of therapies.
“The diet we tested, evaluating its clinical effects for the first time in women with breast cancer, even metastatic in hormone therapy, is a low-calorie vegan diet that induces the metabolic effects of fasting in the body, and for this reason it was called” mima-fasting “- explains Alessio Nencioni, of the Department of Internal Medicine of the Policlinico San Martino – University of Genoa, coordinator of the study together with Valter Longo of the IFOM (FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology) of Milan – In mice, the diet mimics fasting not only has it slowed down tumor growth, but has made tumors regress even after acquiring resistance to standard drug therapies – adds Valter Longo, who has been studying the effect of fasting against tumors for 15 years.
“Patients with hormone-treated breast cancer have followed the cycles of this diet for an average of about 6 months, without showing significant side effects, but only mild and transient discomfort such as headache and weakness” – continues Nencioni – “Some of them have been taking therapy for monthly cycles for almost two years without any problem, it is therefore a well-tolerated intervention if properly planned. The low-calorie diet combined with hormone therapies has reduced the levels of glucose in the circulation but especially the leptin, the hormone that regulates satiety, insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF1), all proteins that promote the proliferation of breast cancer cells. The metabolic changes induced by the mima-fasting diet are associated with positive anticancer effects, which, moreover, are maintained for a long time – resumes Nencioni – This means that this dietary restriction regime could be an additional weapon for r fight breast cancer in women on hormone therapy without the risk of serious side effects. In fact, we observed that the protocol does not compromise the nutritional status of the patients, if adequate nutrition is prescribed between one diet cycle and another to avoid malnutrition and weight loss “.
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