- Christopher Crossan
How My Cancer Was Starved to Death
Updated: Jan 3, 2020
Soft-tissue sarcoma. Prostate cancer. Follicular Lymphoma. Yes, over the last ten years, I've been diagnosed with three separate unrelated cancers. I'm not sure why, but my body seems prone to develop cancers. That's the bad news. But in the process of researching how to fight each of these biological intruders, through my friend Susan Logie I came upon the findings of Dr. Valter Longo at the University of Southern California (USC). Beginning in 2010, he studied the impact of fasting on mice, and discovered that cancer cells in mice grew much slower when they underwent cycles of starvation than cancer cells in mice that ate regularly. Since the publication of Longo’s ground-breaking research, several other studies have been done to confirm this phenomenon, which is called Differential Stress Resistance (DSR) in healthy cells, and Differential Stress Sensitivity (DSS) in cancer cells.
By March 2012, Dr. Longo’s team was able to make the following claim from their research:
Cycles of starvation were as effective as chemotherapeutic agents in delaying progression of different tumors and increased the effectiveness of these drugs against melanoma, glioma, and breast cancer cells. In mouse models of neuroblastoma, fasting cycles plus chemotherapy drugs resulted in long-term cancer-free survival. These studies suggest that multiple cycles of fasting promote differential stress sensitization in a wide range of tumors and could potentially replace or augment the efficacy of certain chemotherapy drugs in the treatment of various cancers.
Imagine your doctor saying, "Mrs. Jones, now that you have your cancer diagnosis, you have two treatment options to choose from that are equally effective: the first - chemotherapy - will slowly poison your body resulting in hair loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and a compromised immune system. The second option - intermittent fasting - will not cause any side effects and will renew your immune system, leaving you in a healthier state than before you were diagnosed with cancer." These are the implications of Longo's research.
Astonishingly, Longo’s team discovered that fasting was equally effective in reducing cancer cells as chemotherapy. And furthermore, fasting coupled with chemotherapy was more effective than either by themselves, and at times even brought about a cancer-free survival. I applied their recommendations during my chemotherapy treatment for the bone-based, soft-tissue sarcoma that had begun to disintegrate my tibia. I decided to fast on my infusion day, not eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and waiting until the next morning to eat breakfast. To keep myself hydrated, throughout the day and night I drank a lot of water and herbal tea or iced tea without sugar. I didn’t want any nutrients to find their way into my blood so that I could starve all the malignant cells that might be present.
This provided my body with 34 hours without food, thus protecting my healthy cells from the destructive impact of Cisplatin and Doxorubicin, and at the same time depleting my cancer cells of any power to resist the chemical agents. I completed my regimen in 2010 and suffered very few side effects. Then I wrote Dr. Longo, expressing my thanks to him for his research which helped save my life.
Within a few hours, Dr. Longo wrote back the following:
I'm very happy to hear that you are doing well. I hope that fasting helped you, and since now we are seeing that fasting makes it a lot worse also for the cancer cells, I suspect that it may have also helped you kill more cancer cells. One thing you may benefit from is doing 3-4 days of fasting every 2-4 weeks. We have evidence that this helps prevent new cancers and clears damaged and pre-cancerous cells.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with a new and unrelated cancer - Follicular Lymphoma. This cancer is very slow-growing, but usually cannot be cured. My oncologist, Dr. Albert Dekker, scheduled me to receive an infusion of Rituxan at regular intervals to slow its growth. Rituxan is a wonderful drug – a monoclonal antibody that is not cytotoxic and gave me no side effects. Thinking back on the email from Dr. Longo, I decided to regularly set aside a 34-hour fast. At first I did it once a week, then after several months - once every two weeks, then a year or so later - once every three weeks until 2019, I fast once a month. Now, six years later, I recently underwent a full body PET scan to see if we were able to control the growth of the Lymphoma. To our surprise, the radiology report was better than expected:
WHOLE BODY POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY WITH COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY 5/31/2019 9:48 AM
INDICATION: Follicular lymphoma and soft tissue sarcoma and prostate cancer
There is no enlarged or hypermetabolic cervical lymph node.
There is no enlarged or hypermetabolic mediastinal or hilar lymph node.
There is no pulmonary mass or hypermetabolic nodule.
The central airways are patent and no endobronchial lesion is seen.
There is a physiologic distribution of normal metabolism in the liver, spleen and bowel.
There is no enlarged or hypermetabolic abdominal or retroperitoneal lymph node.
Normal excreted activity is seen in the kidneys, ureters and bladder.
There is no enlarged or hypermetabolic pelvic or inguinal lymph node.
Nine years after my sarcoma, seven years after my prostate cancer, and six years after my Follicular Lymphoma diagnosis, everything was negative. Not a trace of cancer anywhere. “I think the Follicular Lymphoma is still there,” Dr. Dekker reasoned with measured optimism, “but you have managed to keep it at bay; it is so small that even the PET scan cannot detect any activity.” In other words, all three cancers were basically starved to death.
Besides the good news of my disappearing diseases, my primary care physician noticed the marked gain in my overall health. Evidently, my regular intervals of fasting did more than stop cancer cells from growing; it rejuvenated the stem cells in my bone marrow, and increased my blood supply to record levels. Referring to Dr. Longo’s research, Suzanne Wu writes:
In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study in the June 5 issue of the Cell Stem Cell shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.
“I’m baffled,” said Dr. Gaxiola-Macias, my primary care physician as he looked over my lab results in mid-September. “I have never had a patient with such high blood counts. How did you do that?”
Apparently, during the past four or five years the regular intervals of fasting precipitated a long-term increase in my Hemoglobin and in my White Blood Count (WBC), which makes up my immune system. Last month my Hemoglobin was 17.2; it was actually flagged as being 'too high' since the standard range was 13.2 – 17.1. In the height of my fasting pattern in 2018, my WBC reached a robust 9.6.
Hemoglobin: Standard Range 13.2 – 17.1 g/dL
2/14/14 7/23/18 1/25/19 9/12/19
14.5 g/dL 15.4 g/dL 16.6 g/dL 17.2 g/dL
WBC: Standard Range 3.8 – 10.8 Thousand/uL
3/16/15 7/18/16 4/14/17 8/6/18 9/12/19
6.3 6.8 7.5 9.6 8.3
If my friend Susan Logie had not introduced me in 2010 to the research of Dr. Longo, I’m not sure I would be alive today. I’m deeply indebted to her. When I was first diagnosed with the sarcoma, I knew the chances of survival were slim and I prepared myself emotionally to depart this world. But someone on high has seen fit to keep me here on earth. Why, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was to take care of my 95-year-old mother Lois, who now lives in my home. Or maybe it was to bring out my electric train set for my five little grandsons to play with. But this I am certain of: one reason I am still here is to write this article and share the good news of how the simple act of fasting can increase your chances of survival as a cancer patient.
I often find myself smiling as I read this quote from King David of old:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:2-5, ESV)
 Lee, et al. “Fasting Cycles Retard Growth of Tumors and Sensitize a Range of Cancer Cell Types to Chemotherapy.” Science Translational Medicine. 2012 March 7; 4(124): 124ra27. doi:10.1126/ scitranslmed.3003293. (Andrus Gerontology Center, Department of Biological Sciences, Norris Cancer Center, University of Southern California, 3715 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA.)
 Wu, Suzanne. “Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system.” USC News. June 5, 2014.
for further reading, see the following article which summarizes the research concerning intermittent fasting and cancer: