While risk of developing cancer varies depending on personal risk factors, the progression of cancers to metastasis causes 90 percent of cancer-related deaths.

Current treatments for cancer are not cancer-cell specific and often cause adverse effects. Similarly, they do not treat metastasis, which in many cases can be more lethal than the cancer itself. Metastasis is a phenomenon in which cancers and tumors form in tissues unrelated to the original tumor. For example, radiation and chemotherapy are effective toward killing cancer cells, but are not effective toward stopping metastasis. Radiation and chemotherapy work by killing all of the body's cells; this can cause serious side effects like immune suppression, damage to vital organs like the liver, kidney, and heart, and hair loss.

A new study has found that a two-fold treatment, altering diet and undergoing oxygen treatment, can naturally prevent the growth of cancer cells and their metastasis.

When cancers form, the body loses control of growth in certain cells. These cells continue to grow and form tumors, or groups of cells that have grown too much. Tumors alter their environment to ensure their survival, blocking blood vessels so they do not receive too much oxygen and altering cellular use of nutrients to use up more of the body's sugars. Tumors find low blood sugar and high levels of oxygen deadly. Alterations in these key aspects of tumor growth are the key to this new treatment.

Researchers took advantage of a tumor's preference for growth and worked to create poor conditions for it while still maintaining optimal conditions for the body's other cells.

The dietary change to a ketogenic diet will ensure a lowering of blood sugar so that tumors will no longer thrive. A ketogenic diet is a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fats. This causes the blood sugar to decrease and the body uses mainly fats for energy. The byproduct of fat digestion, ketones, becomes high in the blood, instead of sugar. The normal cells will adjust to using ketones for energy, but the cancerous cells will die from the lack of sugar, as they cannot adjust.

This diet has few side effects and, when studied in mice, indicated a capacity for weight management. By day 7 of treatment, mice on the diet lost 10 percent of their initial body weight and maintained that weight for the duration of the study.

The science of the oxygen therapy is just as simple and cancer-cell specific. The oxygen therapy, hyperbaric oxygen inhalation, has patients inhale 100-percent oxygen at a high pressure using a device called a nebulizer to ensure complete inhalation of the oxygen. This therapy saturates both normal and cancerous cells with oxygen. However, only the cancerous cells will find this to be toxic and die as a result, leaving normal cells unharmed.

The use of the ketogenic diet alone promotes survival by 57 percent because it slows and may even halt the growth of the tumors altogether. Combining the two nearly doubled survival time in mice with metastatic cancer, increasing survival time by 24 days compared to that of control animals. When the study was performed, the use of both treatments showed a 78 percent longer survival in treated mice.

The merit of the ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy are their nontoxicity and specificity for killing cancer cells. Other therapies rely on dangerous chemicals that kill all of the body's cells in order to treat a tumor and do not promise the lack of metastasis.

Further studies must be done to determine clinical use.

Source: Poff AM, Ari C, Seyfried TN, D'Agostino DP. The Ketogenic Diet and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Act Synergistically to Prolong Survival in Mice with Systemic Metastatic Cancer. PLOS ONE. 2013.