Dietary restrictions, including fasting (or long-term starvation), calorie restriction (CR), and short-term starvation (STS), are considered a strong rationale that may protect against various diseases, including age-related diseases and cancer. Among dietary approaches, STS, in which food is not consumed during designed fasting periods but is typically not restricted during designated feeding periods, seems to be more suitable, because other dietary regimens involving prolonged fasting periods could worsen the health conditions of cancer patients, being they already naturally prone to weight loss. Until now, the limited amount of available data does not point to a single gene, pathway, or molecular mechanism underlying the benefits to the different dietary approaches. It is well known that the healthy effect is mediated in part by the reduction of nutrient-related pathways. The calorie restriction and starvation (long- and short-term) also suppress the inflammatory response reducing the expression, for example, of IL-10 and TNF-α, mitigating pro-inflammatory gene expression and increasing anti-inflammatory gene expression. The dietary restriction may regulate both genes involved in cellular proliferation and factors associated to apoptosis in normal and cancer cells. Finally, dietary restriction is an important tool that may influence the response to chemotherapy in preclinical models. However, further data are needed to correlate dietary approaches with chemotherapeutic treatments in human models. The aim of this review is to discuss the effects of various dietary approaches on the cancer progression and therapy response, mainly in preclinical models, describing some signaling pathways involved in these processes.
Keywords: Cancer cells; Cellular stress response; Chemotherapy; Diet; Fasting; Short-term starvation.