The ketogenic diet for the treatment of malignant glioma

J Lipid Res. 2015 Jan;56(1):5-10. doi: 10.1194/jlr.R046797. Epub 2014 Feb 6.


Advances in our understanding of glioma biology has led to an increase in targeted therapies in preclinical and clinical trials; however, cellular heterogeneity often precludes the targeted molecules from being found on all glioma cells, thus reducing the efficacy of these treatments. In contrast, one trait shared by virtually all tumor cells is altered (dysregulated) metabolism. Tumor cells have an increased reliance on glucose, suggesting that treatments affecting cellular metabolism may be an effective method to improve current therapies. Indeed, metabolism has been a focus of cancer research in the last few years, as many pathways long associated with tumor growth have been found to intersect metabolic pathways in the cell. The ketogenic diet (high fat, low carbohydrate and protein), caloric restriction, and fasting all cause a metabolic change, specifically, a reduction in blood glucose and an increase in blood ketones. We, and others, have demonstrated that these metabolic changes improve survival in animal models of malignant gliomas and can potentiate the anti-tumor effect of chemotherapies and radiation treatment. In this review we discuss the use of metabolic alteration for the treatment of malignant brain tumors.

Keywords: Warburg effect; brain tumor; caloric restriction; cancer; glioblastoma multiforme; glucose; ketones; metabolism; therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / diet therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Diet, Ketogenic / methods*
  • Glioma / diet therapy*
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Humans