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Cancer Research Update: High-Fat Diet Speeds Up Cell Mutation

Update Date: Jan 16, 2017 01:50 AM EST

Besides undergoing cancer treatments, the survival of cancer patients depends on their diet regimen. However, the link between an individual's diet and the mutations that affect tumor progression in human cancer remain unclear. In the latest update on cancer research, a study discovered that high-fat diet speeds up cancer mutation.

Most cancer cells follow a phenomenon known as the Warburg effect. The Warburg effect describes how glucose, the simple sugar used by the body for energy, speeds up the spread of cancer in the body. So to prevent the cancer cells from using glucose, a previous study tried to test the effectivity of a low-carb diet to delay the progression of cancer specifically that of brain cancer.

Even though a low-carb diet was successful in delaying brain cancer progression, it is not effective in other types of cancer, specifically cancer with a BRAF V600E mutation. BRAF V600E mutation is found in all types of hair cell type leukemia, 60 percent of melanomas, 10 percent of colorectal cancer, and 5 percent of multiple myelomas. A drug that targets BRAF V600E is available, however, the mutation eventually forms a resistance to the drug.

Using the same idea, the study conducted by researchers from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory, examined the effect of a high-fat diet with cancer with a BRAF V600E mutation. The same group of researchers previously discovered that the BRAF V600E mutation changes the cancer cell's metabolism thus stimulating ketogenesis.

This means that instead of using glucose as a source of energy, cancer with BRAG V600E uses the body's fat to fuel the progression of cancer.

Ketogenesis also produces a compound called acetoacetate that becomes an alternate source of energy. Within the cancer cells with the BRAF V600E mutation, acetoacetate production is stimulated. In addition, if acetoacetate binds with a mutated B-raf protein, it influences the cancer metabolism leading to a cycle of endless energy for cancer.

The study published in Cell Metabolism, designed a concept called precision diet to not only show the link between an individual's diet with mutation of cancer but to target the ketogenesis process and the levels of acetoacetate in the speed of mutation. Rats were used to observe the effects of a high-fat low-carb diet and given lipid-lowering agents to reduce acetoacetate levels.

The results from the study show that the high-fat diet speed up the mutation of and the spread of the BRAF V600E melanoma cells. It grew twice as large over a period of four weeks. However, the high-fat diet did not affect tumor progression of other types of melanoma cells.

In addition, lipid-lowering agents like statins, niacin, and fenofibrate slowed down the progression of the mutation during both types of diet. These lipid-lowering agents commonly used to treat high cholesterol also lowers acetoacetate levels. When the scientists injected acetoacetate to compensate for the low levels, the mutation of cancer cells sped up again.

The study shows the possible potential of precision diet to prevent or slow down tumor progression. However, the study was limited to just one type of cancer cell mutation and further studies are needed to include other types of cancer mutations.

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