Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Median time of survival is about 15 months from diagnosis. Standard therapy for GBM includes surgical resection followed by concomitant radiation and chemotherapy and is able to extend GBM patients’ lives by approximately 1 year.
Like all cancers GBM is highly dependent on glucose for survival and is unable to transition to ketone body metabolism for energy due to damaged mitochondria. The metabolic intransigence of tumor cells provides a clear route for therapeutic exploitation. Normal brain cells are able to obtain all the necessary energy requirements from ketone bodies where cancer cells cannot. The restricted ketogenic diet (R-KD) is a simple, non-toxic therapy that reduces circulating blood glucose levels while raising ketone bodies in the blood stream. Substantial experimental evidence demonstrates the efficacy of the R-KD in reducing tumor growth rates by exploiting the impaired ability of the cancer cell to utilized oxidative energy production.
A 65 year old woman was admitted to Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova, Reggio, Italy on December 5th, 2008. She presented with numerous neurological symptoms and was subsequently diagnosed with Glioblasoma Multiforme. After an incomplete surgical resection the patient began a restricted ketogenic diet the next day. Three weeks later she began the standard treatment protocol of chemotherapy and radiation.
MRI and PET scans preformed 2.5 months from the time of diagnosis found no evidence of any tumor tissue. The patient’s response to this therapeutic approach, complete regression within 2.5 months, is unusual. In fact, no prior reports are documented, describing complete regression within this time frame, to the author’s knowledge. This case study demonstrated that the R-KD was well tolerated. It also suggests the legitimacy of targeting defective tumor metabolism therapeutically, as the observed response from the patient would be unlikely from standard treatment alone.
Even though the results of this single case report are stunning, drawing conclusions is speculative due to the sample size. However, the compelling results of metabolic therapies have been substantiated repeatedly in mice – one mouse study even demonstrating a complete cure of invasive brain cancer when combing the R-KD with radiation. Sadly, this is where these studies have been left – probably because a simple diet, and the molecules that target metabolism and exhibit efficacy, so far cannot be patented and charged for. These studies demonstrate an established mechanism of action based on defective tumor cell metabolism and open up tremendous therapeutic possibilities – especially as an adjunctive therapy. The R-KD differentiates the physiology of the cancer cell and the normal cell, greatly enhancing the efficacy of other therapies while attenuating the delirious effects to normal cells. We don’t want these promising avenues to be closed. That is our mission.