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July 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 5)

Fasting slows leukaemia in children
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Fasting slows leukaemia in children image

The importance of fasting as a cancer therapy has been underlined once again this week with the discovery that it slows the growth of leukaemia in children.

Fasting on alternate days inhibits the development and progress of cancer cells, and after seven weeks no cancerous cells could be detected in the bone marrow of laboratory mice. However, 68 per cent of cells were cancerous in the mice that weren't put on the fast, and most died within 59 days, while the mice in the fasting group were still alive more than 120 days later, and had no symptoms of leukaemia. The mice weren't given any drugs to treat the cancer.

The mice ate normally one day and then ate little or nothing at all the following day.

The therapy seems to work well with the ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia) form of the cancer—which is the most common in children—but not with AML (acute myeloid leukaemia), which more often afflicts adults.

Around 90 per cent of cases of ALL in children are treatable—suggesting that 10 per cent aren't—but the success rate is far lower when adults develop the cancer.

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who carried out the fasting experiments, say that it could be an effective approach, especially for adults with ALL.


(Source: Nature Medicine, December 2016; doi: 10.1038/nm.4252)

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