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Newswise — PHOENIX (March 21, 2022) – While the popular high-fat, zero-carb ketogenic diet or “keto” diet has been thought to help treat cancer, results from a new animal study suggest the opposite: in mice with ovarian cancer, the keto diet significantly increased tumor growth and altered the composition of the gut microbiome. The findings were presented today at the hybrid Society of Gynecologic Oncology 2022 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer, the premier scientific conference focused on the delivery of high-quality gynecologic cancer care.

In the study, mice with ovarian tumors were fed one of three diets: a keto diet; a high-fat diet that included some carbohydrates; or a control diet that was low in fat and high in carbohydrates. Over the course of the study, tumors in mice on the keto diet group grew more than nine times larger, compared with about two times larger for the high-fat group and three times larger for the control group.

The keto diet was also associated with gene expression changes that enhanced inflammation, angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) and other hallmarks of cancer progression.

“The keto diet is very popular, especially among patients who believe it may treat cancer by ‘starving’ tumors of the fuel they need to grow, altering the immune system, and other anti-cancer effects,” said study leader Mariam Alhilli, MD, Cleveland Clinic. “While we don’t know yet whether these findings extend to patients, the results in animals indicate that instead of being protective, the keto diet appears to promote ovarian cancer growth and progression.”

The same study also found the keto diet led to greater changes in the composition of the gut microbiomes of the tumor-bearing mice, in terms of both the diversity and abundances of various bacterial species, than the high-fat and control diets.

“The microbiome is thought to play a role in many diseases through its interactions with different signaling pathways,” said Surabhi Tewari, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, who conducted the microbiome analyses. “Our findings highlight a possible connection between changes in the gut microbiome and greater tumor progression in mice fed the keto diet.”

About SGO

The Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) is the premier medical specialty society for health care professionals trained in the comprehensive management of gynecologic cancers. As a 501(c)(6) organization, SGO contributes to the advancement of gyn cancer care by encouraging research, providing education, raising standards of practice, advocating for patients and members and collaborating with other domestic and international organizations. Learn more at www.sgo.org


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Society of Gynecologic Oncology 2022 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer