Selectively starving cancer cells through dietary manipulation: methods and clinical implications

Future Oncol. 2013 Jul;9(7):959-76. doi: 10.2217/fon.13.31.


As the link between obesity and metabolic syndrome and cancer becomes clearer, the need to determine the optimal way to incorporate dietary manipulation in the treatment of cancer patients becomes increasingly important. Metabolic-based therapies, such as caloric restriction, intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet, have the ability to decrease the incidence of spontaneous tumors and slow the growth of primary tumors, and may have an effect on distant metastases in animal models. Despite the abundance of preclinical data demonstrating the benefit of dietary modification for cancer, to date there are few clinical trials targeting diet as an intervention for cancer patients. We hypothesize that this may be due, in part, to the fact that several different types of diet modification exist with no clear recommendations regarding the optimal method. This article will delineate three commonly used methods of dietary manipulation to assess the potential of each as a regimen for cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction / adverse effects
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Fasting
  • Humans
  • Ketosis
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Obesity / diet therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Patient Compliance