Short-term fasting (STF) is a technique to reduce nutrient intake for a specific period. Since metabolism plays a pivotal role in tumor progression, it can be hypothesized that STF can improve the efficacy of chemotherapy. Recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of STF in cell and animal tumor models. However, large-scale clinical trials must be conducted to verify the safety and effectiveness of these diets. In this review, we re-examine the concept of how metabolism affects pathophysiological pathways. Next, we provided a comprehensive discussion of the specific mechanisms of STF on tumor progression, derived through studies carried out with tumor models. There are currently at least four active clinical trials on fasting and cancer treatment. Based on these studies, we highlight the potential caveats of fasting in clinical applications, including the onset of metabolic syndrome and other metabolic complications during chemotherapy, with a particular focus on the regulation of the epithelial to mesenchymal pathway and cancer heterogeneity. We further discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the current state-of-art tumor models for assessing the impact of STF on cancer treatment. Finally, we explored upcoming fasting strategies that could complement existing chemotherapy and immunotherapy strategies to enable personalized medicine. Overall, these studies have the potential for breakthroughs in cancer management.
Keywords: Cancer metabolism; Chemotherapy; Short-term fasting; Tumor models; Tumor progression.