Fast thinking

6 months ago Comments Off on Fast thinking

A GENERAL besieging a city will often cut off its food supply and wait, rather than risking a direct assault. Many doctors dream of taking a similar approach to cancer. Tumours, being rapidly growing tissues, need more food than healthy cells do. Cutting this off thus sounds like a good way to kill the out-of-control cells. But, while logical in theory, this approach has proved challenging in practice—not least because starvation harms patients, too.

In particular, it damages cells called tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) that, as their name suggests, are one of the immune system’s main anti-cancer weapons. Valter Longo of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, however, thinks he may have a way around this problem. As he and his colleagues write in a paper in this week’s Cancer Cell, they are trying to craft a diet that weakens tumours while simultaneously sneaking vital nutrients to healthy tissues, TILs included.

Dr Longo first used starvation as a weapon against cancer in 2012. In experiments on mice, he employed it in parallel with doxorubicin, a common anticancer drug. The…Continue reading
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