The effects of short-term fasting on quality of life and tolerance to chemotherapy in patients with breast and ovarian cancer: a randomized cross-over pilot study

BMC Cancer. 2018 Apr 27;18(1):476. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4353-2.


Background: This pilot trial aimed to study the feasibility and effects on quality of life (QOL) and well-being of short-term fasting (STF) during chemotherapy in patients with gynecological cancer.

Methods: In an individually-randomized cross-over trial patients with gynecological cancer, 4 to 6 planned chemotherapy cycles were included. Thirty-four patients were randomized to STF in the first half of chemotherapies followed by normocaloric diet (group A;n = 18) or vice versa (group B;n = 16). Fasting started 36 h before and ended 24 h after chemotherapy (60 h-fasting period). QOL was assessed by the FACIT-measurement system.

Results: The chemotherapy-induced reduction of QOL was less than the Minimally Important Difference (MID; FACT-G = 5) with STF but greater than the MID for non-fasted periods. The mean chemotherapy-induced deterioration of total FACIT-F was 10.4 ± 5.3 for fasted and 27.0 ± 6.3 for non-fasted cycles in group A and 14.1 ± 5.6 for non-fasted and 11.0 ± 5.6 for fasted cycles in group B. There were no serious adverse effects.

Conclusion: STF during chemotherapy is well tolerated and appears to improve QOL and fatigue during chemotherapy. Larger studies should prove the effect of STF as an adjunct to chemotherapy.

Trial registration: This trial was registered at NCT01954836 .

Keywords: Breast cancer; Chemotherapy; Fasting; Ovarian cancer; Pilot study; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life*
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data