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20 December 2016

Intermittent fasting could be effective at stalling the progress of B-cell and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children, researchers have found.

"New therapeutic approaches are needed to treat leukaemia effectively," writes Dr Chengcheng Zhang of the University of Texas, USA, in Nature Medicine.

"Dietary restriction regimens, including fasting, have been considered for the prevention and treatment of certain solid tumour types," he adds, "However, whether and how dietary restriction affects hematopoietic malignancies is unknown."

Dr Zhang and his team tested created several mouse models of acute leukaemia, and put the animals on various dietary restriction plans. Cancer cells were marked with green or yellow florescent proteins so their numbers could be traced. Mice put on six cycles of one-day fasts followed by one day of feeding showed completely inhibited cancer development, they report.

"At the end of seven weeks, the fasted mice had virtually no detectible cancerous cells compared to an average of nearly 68% of cells found to be cancerous in the test areas of the non-fasted mice," says Dr Zhang. The spleens and lymph nodes in the fasted model mice were no smaller than those which ate normally, he adds.

"Mice in the acute lymphoblastic leukaemia group that ate normally died within 59 days, while 75% of the fasted mice survived more than 120 days without signs of leukaemia."

He concludes: "Fasting robustly inhibits the initiation and reverses the leukaemic progression of both B cell and T cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but not acute myeloid leukaemia, in mouse models of these tumours."

This could well be due to a beneficial rise in the cell signaling molecule leptin, they believe.

Source: Lu, Z. et al. Fasting selectively blocks development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia via leptin-receptor upregulation. Nature Medicine 12 December 2016; doi: 10.1038/nm.4252

Link: http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.4252.html


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