A regimen of ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy produced significant anticancer effects in a mouse model of systemic metastatic cancer.

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat eating plan that lowers blood glucose and elevates blood ketones, explained a research team led by Dominic P. D’Agostino, PhD, in PLOS One. Whereas normal healthy cells can use ketone bodies for fuels, cancer cells are unable to do so, rendering them vulnerable to reduced glucose availability.

D’Agostino, of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa, Florida, and colleagues further noted that the ketogenic diet had previously been shown to slow cancer progression in animals and humans.

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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which involves breathing 100% oxygen at elevated barometric pressure, saturates tumors with oxygen, reversing the cancer-promoting effects of tumor hypoxia.

Because these two nontoxic therapies exploit overlapping metabolic deficiencies of cancer, D’Agostino and associates tested the combined effects of the treatments in a mouse model of metastatic disease. The mice were fed either a standard diet of rodent chow or a diet of commercially available ketogenic powder mixed with water, with or without hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Tumor growth was monitored by means of bioluminescent imaging.

Ketogenic diet alone significantly reduced blood glucose, slowed tumor growth, and increased mean survival time by 56.7% in mice with systemic metastatic cancer. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone did not influence cancer progression. However, when hyperbaric oxygen therapy and ketogenic diet were combined, blood glucose and tumor growth rate decreased significantly, and mean survival time increased by 77.9% compared with control mice.

These findings suggest that ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy should be further investigated as potential nontoxic treatments or adjuvant therapies to standard care for persons with systemic metastatic disease, wrote D’Agostino and coauthors.