Ketogenic Diet in Cancer Prevention and Therapy: Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Opportunities

Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2021 Jul 3;43(2):558-589. doi: 10.3390/cimb43020042.


Although cancer is still one of the most significant global challenges facing public health, the world still lacks complementary approaches that would significantly enhance the efficacy of standard anticancer therapies. One of the essential strategies during cancer treatment is following a healthy diet program. The ketogenic diet (KD) has recently emerged as a metabolic therapy in cancer treatment, targeting cancer cell metabolism rather than a conventional dietary approach. The ketogenic diet (KD), a high-fat and very-low-carbohydrate with adequate amounts of protein, has shown antitumor effects by reducing energy supplies to cells. This low energy supply inhibits tumor growth, explaining the ketogenic diet's therapeutic mechanisms in cancer treatment. This review highlights the crucial mechanisms that explain the ketogenic diet's potential antitumor effects, which probably produces an unfavorable metabolic environment for cancer cells and can be used as a promising adjuvant in cancer therapy. Studies discussed in this review provide a solid background for researchers and physicians to design new combination therapies based on KD and conventional therapies.

Keywords: alternative cancer therapies; anticancer diet; calories restriction; targeting cancer metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers