In December of 2004, our 4 year old son Raffi was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After three surgeries and several failed drug protocols, it was clear that the tumor was winning. Raffi’s vision, language and motor skills deteriorated and a cascade of endocrine problems affected many vital functions. Our little fighter had done everything we asked of him, but he was no match for his opponent.
In March of 2007, we discovered research from Boston College that had demonstrated that a calorically restricted ketogenic diet could slow progression of brain tumors in mice by limiting the amount of glucose available for tumor growth (1). From there, we learned of a case study of two pediatric brain tumor patients that had been treated with a ketogenic diet for 8 weeks. Glucose uptake by the tumor had been reduced by >21% in both of these children (2). We also learned that Johns Hopkins Hospital, among others, had a long history of safely implementing this diet in another vulnerable pediatric population: children with intractable epilepsy (3).
Could this simple yet novel approach to cancer management succeed where other therapies had failed? We had nothing to lose, so with the support of his pediatrician and oncologist, Raffi began a restricted ketogenic diet concurrent with a low-dose chemotherapy drug. Amazingly, the tumor shrank by 15% in the first 3 months! (Note: In order to be medically monitored, we agreed to include this “evidence-based” drug in his care plan even though his tumor had failed to respond to it less than a year before the start of this diet “trial”.) Chemo was discontinued in December of 2007 and Raffi continued with the ketogenic diet as his sole therapy for 3 more years.
Raffi’s diet gave him a second chance at life. Of course, we wish that we had learned of the ketogenic diet earlier. We are so grateful to have found such a simple, safe, and effective dietary therapy.
1. Zhou W, Mukherjee P, Kiebish MA, Markis WT, Mantis JG, Seyfried TN. The calorically restricted ketogenic diet, an effective alternative therapy for malignant brain cancer Nutr Metab (London). 2007;4:5.
2. Nebeling LC, Miraldi F, Shurin SB, Lerner E. Effects of a ketogenic diet on tumor metabolism and nutritional status in pediatric oncology patients J Am Coll Nutr. 1995;14(2):202-8.
3. Freeman JM, Kossoff EH, Hartman AL. The ketogenic diet: one decade later Pediatrics. 2007;119(3):535-43.