• by:
  • July 1st, 2020

New research combines the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) with adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer.
The published study in Nature Communications was conducted in several hospitals in the Netherlands, in collaboration with Professor Valter Longo’s research team.
The results of this study are added to the pre-clinical ones and suggest, for the first time in patients, that FMD is safe and effective in combination with chemotherapy in women with early onset breast cancer.
Mice studies have shown that FMD cycles, combined with a wide range of anti-cancer therapies, can protect against the side effects of chemotherapy, inhibit the progression of a wide variety of tumors and increase the therapeutic efficacy of chemotherapy itself.
There are also some small clinical studies that have already assessed the potential of fasting to improve cancer treatment, and that have focused primarily on patient feasibility and treatment toxicity.
Proceeding in chronological order, the first published study concerns the collection by Professor Longo and his collaborators of data on ten people, who voluntarily chose to fast in conjunction with chemotherapy. The results suggest that fasting in combination with chemotherapy is feasible, safe and has the potential to decrease the side effects caused by chemotherapy. (1)

The second study, carried out by the University of Leiden, examined the feasibility of short-term fasting and its effects on chemotherapy tolerance in a homogeneous group of patients with ovarian or breast cancer. Fasting during chemotherapy was well tolerated and showed a reduction in side effects. (2)

A clinical study published by Professor Longo in 2016 saw 18 patients fasting on water alone for 24, 48 or 72 hours before platinum-based chemotherapy, and was conducted to evaluate their safety and feasibility in cancer patients.
The potential protective effects of 72-hour fasting compared to 24-hour fasting with breast, ovarian, uterine and lung cancer are visible. (3)

The second study, carried out by the University of Leiden, examined the feasibility of short-term fasting and its effects on chemotherapy tolerance in a homogeneous group of patients with ovarian or breast cancer. Fasting during chemotherapy was well tolerated and showed a reduction in side effects. (2)

The last article, preceding this, studied the feasibility and effects on the quality of life and the well-being of short-term fasting during chemotherapy in patients with gynecological cancer (ovary and breast). Short-term fasting during chemotherapy is well tolerated and appears to improve quality of life and fatigue during therapy. (4)

What does this study say?

131 patients with stage II or III breast cancer (HER2 negative) were recruited for this study. 65 of these were asked to adopt an FMD, starting 3 days before adjuvant chemotherapy. The remaining patients continued with their usual eating patterns.
Overall, these data are in agreement with previous studies, showing that FMD is safe and effective in addition to chemotherapy, at least in patients with a normal body mass index at the time of enrollment.
In addition, patients who followed FMD for multiple cycles of chemotherapy had improvements in the radiological response and were more likely to decrease cancer cells by 90-100%. In patients who have followed multiple FMDs, the damage induced by chemotherapy to the DNA of T lymphocytes is significantly reduced. This effect could be read as a “dose response”, i.e. as the number of FMD cycles increases in conjunction with the therapy, they increase the benefits.
As a general conclusion, FMD is safe in conjunction with chemotherapy treatments and has contributed to diminishing the adverse effects of the treatments themselves.

However, new and more detailed studies are needed to describe in detail the effect of FMD in this and other types of tumors.
Currently, there are several clinical studies underway to verify the safety and effects of FMD, in particular on the side effects of anti-cancer treatments and the enhancement of standard therapies. At the moment, no further information is available and we will have to wait for the conclusion of these studies.


  1. Safdie, F. M., Dorff, T., Quinn, D., Fontana, L., Wei, M., Lee, C., … Longo, V. D. (2009). Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report. Aging (Albany NY), 1(12), 988–1007.
  2. De Groot, S., Vreeswijk, M. P., Welters, M. J., Gravesteijn, G., Boei, J. J., Jochems, A., Kroep, J. R. (2015). The effects of short-term fasting on tolerance to (neo) adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-negative breast cancer patients: a randomized pilot study. BMC Cancer, 15, 652.
  3. Dorff, T. B., Groshen, S., Garcia, A., Shah, M., Tsao-Wei, D., Pham, H., … Quinn, D. I. (2016). Safety and feasibility of fasting in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy. BMC Cancer, 16, 360.
  4. Bauersfeld SP, Kessler CS, Wischnewsky M, Jaensch A, Steckhan N, Stange R, Kunz B, Brückner B, Sehouli J, Michalsen A. The effects of short-term fasting on quality of life and tolerance to chemotherapy in patients with breast and ovarian cancer: a randomized cross-over pilot study. BMC Cancer. 2018 Apr 27;18(1):476. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4353-2.
  5. de Groot S, Lugtenberg RT, Cohen D, et al. Fasting mimicking diet as an adjunct to neoadjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer in the multicentre randomized phase 2 DIRECT trial. Nat Commun. 2020;11(1):3083. Published 2020 Jun 23. doi:10.1038/s41467-020-16138-3

By Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus editorial staff
Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus aims to make scientific dissemination by raising awareness among the scientific and non-scientific community of a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition through the production of explanatory scientific articles, textual, infographics and multimedia content, and the dissemination of clinical activities scientific, informative and educational aspects of the Foundation and its team of professionals. Dietary pathways, scientific discoveries, clinical studies, treatments and technologies, national and international awareness events, prevention initiatives as well as Longevity recipes are just some of the topics addressed in articles and in-depth interviews published daily and written in collaboration with the Foundation’s specialists. Also active on social networks, Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus editorial staff also offers a monthly newsletter sent to all members, to stay up to date on the most interesting news related to the world of Health, Nutrition and Longevity.
Romina Inés Cervigni
Alessandra Fedato
Maria Liliana Ciraulo
Corinna Montana Lampo
Cristina Villa
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