Revisiting Ketogenic Diet for Glioblastoma Brain Tumors

Maroon Article on Ketogenic Diet for Cancer 2019In 2013 and 2015, Neurosurgeon Dr Joseph Maroon collaborated with scientist Thomas N. Seyfried, PhD, at Boston College, on the potential benefits of the ketogenic diet as a adjunctive treatment for cancer.  In their recent article published in 2019 in Neurochemical Research, entitled,  Provocative Question: Should Ketogenic Metabolic Therapy Become the Standard of Care for Glioblastoma?, they review why new treatments of this aggressive brain tumor are important and how this cancer may be fought with the use of the ketogenic diet.

The glioblastoma (GBM) malignant brain tumor is generally considered rare but unfortunately is universally 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 often 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 this recent article, Maroon and Seyfried 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 improved with a KD strategy that targets the underlying metabolic defects in the GBM cells while also reducing inflammation and edema.  They advocate for clinical trials that compare outcomes in GBM patients that include the ketogenic diet.