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The emerging role of ketogenic diets in cancer treatment

Klement, Rainer Johannes

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: March 2019 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 129–134
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000540
LIPID METABOLISM AND THERAPY: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review Altered glucose metabolism in cancer cells is an almost ubiquitous observation, yet hardly exploited therapeutically. However, ketogenic diets have gained growing attention in recent years as a nontoxic broad-spectrum approach to target this major metabolic difference between normal and cancer cells. Although much research still needs to be done, new knowledge has been gained about the optimal utilization of ketogenic diets for cancer treatment that this review aims to summarize.

Recent findings Although most preclinical studies indicate a therapeutic potential for ketogenic diets in cancer treatment, it is now becoming clear that not all tumors might respond positively. Early clinical trials have investigated ketogenic diets as a monotherapy and – while showing the safety of the approach even in advanced cancer patients – largely failed to prove survival prolonging effects. However, it gradually became clear that the greatest potential for ketogenic diets is as adjuvant treatments combined with pro-oxidative or targeted therapies initiated in early stages of the disease. Beneficial effects on body composition and quality of life have also been found.

Summary Ketogenic diets against cancer are worth further exploration, both in the laboratory and clinically. Patients wishing to undertake a ketogenic diet during therapy should receive dietary counselling to avoid common mistakes and optimize compliance. Future research should focus more on important clinical endpoints.

Department of Radiotherapy and Radiation Oncology, Leopoldina Hospital Schweinfurt, Schweinfurt, Germany

Correspondence to Rainer Johannes Klement, PhD, Department of Radiotherapy and Radiation Oncology, Leopoldina Hospital Schweinfurt, Robert-Koch-Straße 10, D- 97422 Schweinfurt, Germany. Tel: +49 9721 720 2761; e-mail:

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