Restricting Caloric Intake May Slow the Spread of Breast Cancer

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Eating a restricted diet may help some breast cancer patients fight the disease.

A new study conducted by Thomas Jefferson University examined the effects of calorie restriction on mice that had been given triple negative breast cancer cells. This form of the disease is known for being aggressive and does not respond to hormone therapies. However, when researchers limited the amount of food the mice ate, the cancer metastasized (or spread to other areas of the body) at a slower rate than when they ate freely.

"The diet turned on a epigenetic program that protected mice from metastatic disease," Nicole Simone, M.D., an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson University and senior author on the study, said in a statement. 

Chemotherapy and hormonal breast cancer treatments typically cause patients to gain weight because they alter women's metabolism – on average, women gain 10 pounds within their first year of treatment. However, other studies have found that breast cancer treatments are less effective in women who gain weight. For this reason, researchers thought to restrict the diet of cancer-laden mice to see if maintaining a lower weight would cause the treatments to become more effective. While a link did exist, researchers don't promise that restricting diet would absolutely make a difference in treatment.

"Calorie restriction promotes epigenetic changes in the breast tissue that keep the extracellular matrix strong," Simone told Psych Central. "A strong matrix creates a sort of cage around the tumor, making it more difficult for cancer cells to escape and spread to new sites in the body."

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