Scientists from the USC Longevity Institute and other research institutions have discovered that a combination of vitamin C and a fasting-mimicking diet could help fight against some challenging types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer characterized by KRAS mutations.
The research, conducted by Valter Longo and his team, was published in Nature Communications.
The fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) simulates a fasting state while still providing nutrients and calories. It operates in a body’s “sweet spot” where the benefits of fasting are experienced without activating pathways that block these benefits.
Previous studies on vitamin C as a potential anti-cancer agent have shown mixed results.
However, in this study, the team sought to investigate if a fasting-mimicking diet could enhance the tumor-fighting capabilities of high-dose vitamin C.
The goal was to create an environment that would be harmful to cancer cells but still safe for normal cells.
The combination of FMD and vitamin C showed remarkable effects. Used individually, both FMD and vitamin C reduced cancer cell growth and caused a minor increase in cancer cell death.
However, when combined, they demonstrated a dramatic effect, killing almost all cancerous cells.
This potent effect was detected only in cancer cells with KRAS mutations, which often signal resistance to most cancer-fighting treatments and lower patient survival rates.
KRAS mutations occur in about a quarter of all human cancers and are estimated to occur in up to half of all colorectal cancers.
The research also provides insight into why previous studies on vitamin C as an anticancer therapy showed limited efficacy.
The team found that vitamin C treatment seems to prompt KRAS-mutated cells to protect cancer cells by boosting levels of ferritin, a protein that binds iron.
By lowering ferritin levels, scientists managed to increase vitamin C’s toxicity to cancer cells.
The study revealed that patients with colorectal cancer having high levels of the iron-binding protein have a lower survival rate.
These findings suggest that a combination of a low-toxicity fasting-mimicking diet and vitamin C could potentially replace more toxic treatments.
While fasting can be challenging for cancer patients, a low-calorie, plant-based diet might offer a more feasible option. This diet could prompt cells to react as if the body were fasting, thereby providing similar benefits.
The study opens a new avenue for cancer treatment, especially for cancers associated with KRAS mutations. Further research will be needed to evaluate this approach’s efficacy and safety in human clinical trials.
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