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23 August 2013
Cutting calories improves response to cancer treatment

Restricting calories appears to improve the success of cancer treatment, say French Institute for Health and Medical Research scientists investigating how caloric intake may play a role in the efficacy of targeted cancer therapies.

While previous studies suggested a connection between caloric intake and the development of cancer, scientific evidence about the effect of caloric intake on cancer treatments has been limited to date. When humans and animals consume calories, the body metabolizes food to produce energy and assist in the building of proteins. When fewer calories are consumed, the amount of nutrients available to the body's cells is reduced, slowing the metabolic process and limiting the function of some proteins. These characteristics of calorie restriction have led researchers to hypothesize that reducing caloric intake could potentially help inhibit the overexpression of the protein Mcl-1, an alteration associated with several cancers.

To better understand how calorie restriction might control the overexpression of Mcl-1 in certain cancers and consequently affect treatment efficacy, study leader Jean-Ehrland Ricci and a team of researchers conducted a series of experiments in mice developing lymphoma-like cancers. An experimental targeted therapy, ABT-737, was used as a treatment to induce cancer cell death.

The investigators observed that neither treatment with ABT-737 nor calorie restriction alone increased the survival of mice over that of the other mice; however, the combination of ABT-737 and calorie restriction did. To further test their observations, researchers conducted several additional laboratory-based analyses, confirming that the cancer-related activity of Mcl-1 had decreased.

"The results of our investigation provide encouraging data that suggest that the combination of a defined period of calorie restriction and targeted therapy may have the potential to increase cancer survival," said Ricci. "This is just the beginning of our journey to bring these research findings to the clinical setting. We next want to examine what component of a reduced-calorie diet - fats, sugars, or another food compound - influenced the lymphoma cells' improved sensitivity to treatment."

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Source: American Society of Hematology

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