Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Food and Cancer Project

Over the past year and a half, I have watched four people deal with cancer.  Three of them died, one survived.

One of those was misdiagnosed multiple times; he had urinary symptoms similar to kidney stones, and his physicians did not decide that the problem was very advanced renal cancer until just months before the tumors took his life.  At my suggestion he made an attempt to adopt a plant-based diet but did not have the all-important support of his significant other.  In the meantime, his case was complicated by two or three botched major abdominal surgeries on the tumors that just drained the life energy from him.  He passed away about 4 or 5 months after diagnosis.

The second was diagnosed with a very rare, very aggressive, and essentially untreatable malignancy of the parietal pleura.  This cancer is linked to asbestos exposure and symptoms often do not present until the cancer has progressed to stage III or IV.  These patients have an average life expectancy at diagnosis of only 18 months.  This person I knew had a stage IV case when diagnosed.  I suggested a vegan diet, but he chose to follow a diet containing fish and other animal products.  Although he did get chemotherapy, he lasted only about 6 months.

The third was a prominent promoter of a meat-based paleo diet.  She was diagnosed with the cancer about three and a half years ago.  Since then, she attempted to treat her cancer with both conventional chemotherapy and with alternative therapies.  Despite my suggestion to eliminate animal protein, she chose to implement a high fat, meat-based ketogenic diet.  The original cancer metastasized to the brain and very sadly to me, she passed away early this year at a relatively young age – younger than me.

The fourth is still alive.  She has a recurrence of a previously treated cancer of a female organ.  At my suggestion, about 2 years ago, she adopted a vegan diet, although not as well-balanced as I would prefer.  During this time, she has also gotten conventional chemotherapy.   She is now on her second course of chemotherapy.  She is still working full time, and to the amazement of her oncology team, she has very little side effects from the very harsh drugs she is taking.  In addition, so far, it seems that the combination is working.  Her tumor markers are significantly improved at last check.  She is not out of the woods by any means, but she is so far seeming to do better than the other three.

Now, these are just anecdotes.  I don't mean to draw any conclusions from these three very different cases.  However, the difference between the third and fourth cases strikes me as very, very interesting.

I recommended vegan eating to these people because, as Dr. Rosa Aspalter, M.D. discusses on the Food and Cancer Project Blog and Website, we have good scientific reason to believe that consumption of animal protein promotes cancer partly because of its very high methionine content.

My friend Gordon Saxe, M.D., Ph.D., studies dietary treatment of cancer at U.C. San Diego where he is a professor of medicine.  He has published several papers in major journals providing some evidence that a whole foods plant-based diet can slow or reverse cancer growth.   The videos below provides a peak at his research.

As shown in the video below, the leader of the Food and Cancer Project, Dr. Rosa Aspalter, M.D. is a cancer patient herself. After adopting a vegan diet her tumor markers went below detection level and CT scan found that every tumor metastasis grew smaller or disappeared.  Now she wants to study this approach scientifically. 

As Dr. Aspalter explains, except for the vegan diet, other dietary approaches to cancer have little to no scientific support or, as in the case of the ketogenic diet, have significant hazards based on their nutritional composition.  We have a need for well-designed scientific study of the effect of a vegan diet on cancer treatment.  

Consequently The Food and Cancer Project is performing a study to determine the effect of a 100% plant based diet on cancer treatment and progression. The Food and Cancer Project is seeking cancer patients to participate in a proof of hypothesis (Proof of Principle) study.

Participants who have cancer can choose to eat either an omnivorous diet, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, or a vegan diet.  They will fill out some questionnaires during their participation. 

The purpose of this study is to find out if there is reasonable basis (proof of hypothesis) to pursue further clinical trials.  At present, this study is self-funded by Dr. Aspalter herself.  

Please pass this information to anyone you know who could benefit or participate.  


Debbie Neumayer said...

Very true! This approach aligns with the Gerson Therapy, which has successfully treated people with cancer and other degenerative diseases for several decades.

dar said...

gee, the logic is so simple:the diet you've been using all those decades [which played a big part in your illness]is not the one to be on if you want to,the RhA from 30yrs ago is undetectable,as are asthma,allergies,ear infection... in this old mechanic's body due to the switch to veganism.

Charles Grashow said...
Metabolic management of glioblastoma multiforme using standard therapy together with a restricted ketogenic diet: Case Report


Prior to initiation of the standard therapy, the patient conducted water-only therapeutic fasting and a restricted 4:1 (fat: carbohydrate + protein) ketogenic diet that delivered about 600 kcal/day. The patient also received the restricted ketogenic diet concomitantly during the standard treatment period. The diet was supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Steroid medication (dexamethasone) was removed during the course of the treatment. The patient was followed using MRI and positron emission tomography with fluoro-deoxy-glucose (FDG-PET).


After two months treatment, the patient's body weight was reduced by about 20% and no discernable brain tumor tissue was detected using either FDG-PET or MRI imaging. Biomarker changes showed reduced levels of blood glucose and elevated levels of urinary ketones. MRI evidence of tumor recurrence was found 10 weeks after suspension of strict diet therapy.
The Ketogenic Diet for the Treatment of Malignant Glioma
Effects of a ketogenic diet on tumor metabolism and nutritional status in pediatric oncology patients: two case reports.

Don Matesz said...


Ketogenic diet didn't work for the friend of mine, who was also a prominent paleo diet cooking instructor, who died with the brain tumor metastasized from breast cancer.

A few case reports is hardly a body of evidence when there are no control groups at all. The full abstract you cited also contains this sentence in the stated Results section:

"MRI evidence of tumor recurrence was found 10 weeks after suspension of strict diet therapy."

The tumor was still live and kicking, just temporarily suppressed by the ketogenic diet. This doesn't sound all that promising to me.

Why do all the paleo/low carb people like all this low quality case report and anecdote evidence, and theory papers, but turn their backs on well designed clinical trials that include control groups, such as performed by Ornish et al. ?

And why not consider the fact that there is a strong mechanistic basis for the finding that meat promotes cancer, for example:

Charles Grashow said...

From the Ornish study

Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of early, low grade prostate cancer in men.

Charles Grashow said...

It's a mouse study - any revelance to humans??

Charles Grashow said...
Influence of a Diet Very High in Vegetables, Fruit, and Fiber and Low in Fat on Prognosis Following Treatment for Breast Cancer
The Women's Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Randomized Trial

Among survivors of early stage breast cancer, adoption of a diet that was very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat did not reduce additional breast cancer events or mortality during a 7.3-year follow-up period.

In this randomized trial of a dietary intervention to achieve a substantial change to a diet very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat, the risk of developing additional breast cancer events and survival were not altered in women previously treated for early stage disease. No significant benefit in recurrence was observed overall among population subgroups characterized by demographic characteristics, baseline diet, or initial tumor types. Although breast cancer mortality rates in the United States declined during the study period, the similarity in survival patterns between the WHEL Study groups suggests that continued follow-up would not alter the study results.

n conclusion, during a mean 7.3-year follow-up, we found no evidence that adoption of a dietary pattern very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat vs a 5-a-day fruit and vegetable diet prevents breast cancer recurrence or death among women with previously treated early stage breast cancer.

Essen und Krebs / Food and Cancer said...

Dear Charles,

The WHELStudy, you cited here does not prove that a plant based diet has no effect on cancer survival - for folliwing reasons:

1) This study meanwhile is rather "old" - methodes have improved since than.

2) It is allways important to look at what actually was studied. From the abstract, it first seems that only two interventions are compared: a telephone counseling intervention compared with print material about 5-a-day. So the study is much more a measure of the effect of an intervention than a measure of the effect on dietary changes on disease itself!

3) Nevertheless - dietary habits have been ivestigated - so lets stick to them. In the abstract you cited here, it reads: ".. a diet that was very high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber and low in fat dit not reduce additional breast cancer events or mortality ..."
Now, lets look at the data:

- Participants ate 3.8-3.9 servings of vegetabeles / day and this amount was increased to 7.8 servings in the intervention group. Unfortunately a definition of "serving" is missing. As you may know, 1 portion can actualy consist of more than 1 serving. So, the conclusion that they had "very high" intake of vegetable might just be wrong. And the reported fibre intake of 30g ist just the recommended minimal fibre intake and indeed not "very high".

- nutrition data were collected by a 24h dietary recall by a personal investigator. As we know, these recalls are subcet to distortion as people tend to give socially expected answeres.

- nevertheless, lets accept that all was valid. We do not have information about other aspects of nutrition. We do not have information about meat, sausage, egg, milkintake, in short - about animal proteins, which may have severely reduced the effect of dietary changes!

- Last but not least - from Table 6 You see a risk reduction for cancer recurrence and death for every single factor: increased vegetable intake, increased fruit intake, fibre intake, increased reduced intake of sturated fatty acids by as much as 50%!

So, look carefully at the studies! Just citing them does not really provide sound information!

Yours Rosa Aspalter