…Watson’s released a paper in 2012 (which he called his most important since the double helix), “Oxidants, Antioxidants and the Current Incurability of Metastatic Cancers,” which highlighted the relationship between free-radical (also called reactive oxygen species, ROS) inducing cancer treatments and antioxidants in cancer cells. Watson noted that many cancer treatments work by overloading cancer cells with ROS which kill the cancer cells. Watson also noted that antioxidants, which many claimed were healthy, might make these cancer treatments less effective or even cause cancer. In essence, antioxidants may help keep cancer cells healthy in the face of ROS. The R-KD, on on the other hand, cut off the cancer cell’s ability to make the antioxidant glutathione making it more susceptible to those cancer treatments.
Valter Longo, a researcher at USC, tried to test the effect of fasting on the side effects of chemotherapy but ran into problems trying to recruit patients. Oncologist were skeptical. He eventually convinced ten oncologists with patients with a variety of cancers to try a pre-chemo and post-chemo water-only fast. All reported less severe side effects
Another related question was whether R-KD helped cancer cells be more vulnerable to chemo therapies. A group at the Barrow Neurological Institute Institute in Arizona showed that it did in a mice study. These and other studies showed that being in the state of ketosis helped protect healthy cells and improved the effectiveness of ROS-inducing cancer treatments.
In 2012, the FDA approved the first of a new kind of cancer drug, ipilimumab, that attempted to work with the immune system against cancer. This kind of drug works by releasing some of the controls on aggressive immune cells. The theory was an elegant idea, but in a trial of 540 patients, 3 saw their cancer go away but fourteen died. The course of treatment was four infusions over three months. The cost: $120,000.
Dominic D’Agostino, a research professor at the University of South Florida, received a grant from the Navy to study the effects of oxygen toxicity on cells. This is related to improving performance of Navy SEAL divers. They used a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to test the effect of increased oxygen pressure on different types of cells. One particular type of cell was particularly vulnerable – glioblastoma cells from a stage 4 cancer patient.
D’Agostino had also done work with nutritional ketosis. This was to possibly reduce seizures that SEAL divers sometimes got from oxygen toxicity. Putting these two effects together, he showed that ketones could kill cancer cells. He read Seyfried’s journal article on cancer and it made sense given what he was seeing in his research work. He called Seyfried and they worked together on a mouse experiment to measure the effect of Seyfried’s R-KD with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. They found that separately the two treatments slowed the growth of tumors but together they were even more effective. Mean survival went from 56.7% with diet alone to 77.9%.
Rather than seeing cancer therapy as a war with the disease, Seyfried and D’Agostino see it more like an ecosystem. They see the diet as making cancer weak and vulnerable and the metabolic therapies pushing them over the edge. R-KD with hyperbaric oxygen therapy leaves patients healthier and is also dirt cheap compared to radiation. However, radiation oncology is the most lucrative branch of medicine. There is likely to be resistance. Similarly, 3BP also has the possibility to revolutionize cancer treatment. It is largely non-toxic and could potentially work on any PET-positive cancer (95% of all cancers). 3BP treatment would likely cost less than $100 (the cost of the treatment mentioned in part 3C of this book review). These metabolic treatments show great promise but because they are so cheap (in the case of the diet, free), it is hard to get funding for trials. No one would make much money if these treatments became mainstream.