Growth of human colon cancer cells in nude mice is delayed by ketogenic diet with or without omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides

Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2015;16(5):2061-8. doi: 10.7314/apjcp.2015.16.5.2061.


Background: Tumors are largely unable to metabolize ketone bodies for energy due to various deficiencies in one or both of the key mitochondrial enzymes, which may provide a rationale for therapeutic strategies that inhibit tumor growth by administration of a ketogenic diet with average protein but low in carbohydrates and high in fat.

Materials and methods: Thirty-six male BALB/C nude mice were injected subcutaneously with tumor cells of the colon cancer cell line HCT116. The animals were then randomly split into three feeding groups and fed either a ketogenic diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and MCT (MKD group; n=12) or lard only (LKD group; n=12) or a standard diet (SD group; n=12) ad libitum. Experiments were ended upon attainment of the target tumor volume of 600 mm3 to 700 mm3. The three diets were compared for tumor growth and survival time (interval between tumor cell injection and attainment of target tumor volume).

Results: The tumor growth in the MKD and LKD groups was significantly delayed compared to that in the SD group.

Conclusions: Application of an unrestricted ketogenic diet delayed tumor growth in a mouse xenograft model. Further studies are needed to address the mechanism of this diet intervention and the impact on other tumor-relevant parameters such as invasion and metastasis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Diet, Ketogenic / methods
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism*
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation / methods
  • Neoplasm Transplantation / pathology
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Triglycerides