June 2021 – In the May 31, 2021 Frontiers in Nutrition Journal, an article co-authored by Dr. Joseph Maroon presents a case report on the benefits of a ketogenic diet for a malignant brain tumor. For the last 10 years neurosurgeon Dr. Maroon has collaborated with Thomas Seyfried, PhD at Boston College, and others on the potential benefits of the ketogenic diet as a adjunctive treatment for cancer. In this recent case report article, they describe the self treatment of a British man who rejected the standard of care to treat his terminal brain cancer (glioblastoma (GBM). After adopting a ketogenic diet in 2014, this typically fatal glioblastoma tumor grew at a very slow rate while using the diet.
A glioblastoma (GBM) malignant brain tumor is generally considered rare but unfortunately is in most cases fatal within 12 to 18 months after diagnosis with standard therapy and 3 to 12 months without therapy. Surgery is usually attempted to debulk the tumor and make the tissue diagnosis. Because GBM’s are otherwise mostly refractory to standard cancer treatment therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation and anti-edema medications such as glucocorticoid (steroids) medications, alternative protocols are sometimes considered and used for treatment of this type of cancer.
A diet which has been used with success for decades to treat refractory seizures in children called the Ketogenic Diet (KD) has shown promising results to reduce circulating levels of glucose in an attempt to “starve” these aggressive brain tumor cells. In their prior article, entitled, Provocative Question: Should Ketogenic Metabolic Therapy Become the Standard of Care for Glioblastoma?, Seyfried, Maroon and other collaborators propose how GBM is a type of mitochondrial metabolic disease where glutamine and glucose drive the growth of the cancer cell types. They propose overall improved survival of patients can be achieved with a KD strategy as a supplement to other treatment modalities. The ketogenic diet targets the underlying metabolic defects in the GBM cells while also reducing inflammation and edema. They have often advocated for clinical trials that compare outcomes in GBM patients that include the ketogenic diet.
Current Case Report:
(Images show tumor in 2014 and 2017.)
The patient featured in the article had refused standard of care (SOC) and steroid medication after initial diagnosis (2014), and elected to consume a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet consisting mostly of saturated fats, minimal vegetables, and a variety of meats. His tumor continued to grow slowly until 2017, when the patient opted for surgical debulking. when the diagnosis of GBM was confirmed. Following surgery, the patient continued with a self-administered ketogenic diet. At the time of this case report (May 2021), the patient remains alive with a good quality of life. MRI continues to show slow interval progression of the tumor. The authors point out that further studies are needed to determine if the ketogenic strategy could be effective in providing additional long-term management for other GBM patients.