Short-term fasting (48 hours) was shown to be effective in protecting normal cells and mice but not cancer cells against high dose chemotherapy, termed Differential Stress Resistance (DSR), but the feasibility and effect of fasting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is unknown. Here we describe 10 cases in which patients diagnosed with a variety of malignancies had voluntarily fasted prior to (48-140 hours) and/or following (5-56 hours) chemotherapy. None of these patients, who received an average of 4 cycles of various chemotherapy drugs in combination with fasting, reported significant side effects caused by the fasting itself other than hunger and lightheadedness. Chemotherapy associated toxicity was graded according to the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The six patients who underwent chemotherapy with or without fasting reported a reduction in fatigue, weakness, and gastrointestinal side effects while fasting. In those patients whose cancer progression could be assessed, fasting did not prevent the chemotherapy-induced reduction of tumor volume or tumor markers. Although the 10 cases presented here suggest that fasting in combination with chemotherapy is feasible, safe, and has the potential to ameliorate side effects caused by chemotherapies, they are not meant to establish practice guidelines for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Only controlled-randomized clinical trials will determine the effect of fasting on clinical outcomes including quality of life and therapeutic index.
Keywords: Cancer; Chemotherapy; IGF-I; Side-effect; Toxicity; fasting.