Spontaneous Regression of Cancer with Fasting

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How can we naturally increase the activity of our cancer-fighting natural killer cells?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 2015, a remarkable case report was published in which a woman with stage 3 follicular lymphoma underwent a medically supervised, 21-day water-only fast, after which her enlarged lymph nodes were substantially reduced in size. The patient then remained on a whole food, plant-based diet, and at six and nine-month follow-up visits she remained asymptomatic.

In 2018, her three-year follow-up was published. Remarkably, she appeared to remain cancer-free, confirmed by CT and PET scans. Her cancer appeared to have been knocked down and out. The initial regression has persisted for the three years with no additional intervention other than the dietary change. Could it have just been a coincidence? Sure, but the initial regression directly coincided with the timing of her water-only fast, suggesting a causal relationship, and there are biological mechanisms by which fasting may potentiate tumor regression, such as decreasing levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).

The term “spontaneous regression” of cancer is a misnomer. Obviously, there was something that caused the regression, whether or not we know what it is. Presumably the immune system plays a role. The fact that you can get a marked increase in cancer rates when you are immunosuppressed suggests that cancers are popping up all the time, but your immune system is normally able to keep them at bay. There was an example, for instance, of a regression after a transfusion of blood from a patient who had previously sustained a spontaneous regression; or cases of patients who had been free of metastases for 15 or 20 years, only to develop rapidly fatal metastases after some type of stress or shock that apparently sharply reduced their resistance.

For most cancers, spontaneous regression is exceedingly rare, but lymphoma is an exception. Of 140 cases of nodular lymphoma (which is what they used to call follicular lymphoma), there were 18 cases of at least partial and 6 cases of complete regression. So, like 1 in 25 cases just go away on their own. So, when you have follicular lymphoma cases in which tumors shrink after any kind of treatment—in this case after some herbal supplement—you always have to ask: is this cause-and-effect or just coincidence?

Elevated natural killing activity may be one of the possible mechanisms responsible for spontaneous regression of malignant lymphoma. Natural killer cells may be part of our first line of defense against cancer by destroying tumor cells. And if you compare the natural killer cell activity of those with malignant lymphoma that spontaneously regressed, versus those whose cancer didn’t, or a control group, the spontaneous regression group does seem to be on the high end.

How can we increase natural killer cell activity naturally? Exercise can do it, unless, apparently, you’re eating a high-fat diet. Those randomized to undergo an exercise training program on a high-fat diet actually suffered a decline in natural killer cell activity, suggesting training on a high-fat diet is detrimental to the immune system. Eating lots of contaminated fatty fish may also adversely affect natural killer cell levels. But put people on a low-fat diet, and you can dramatically increase natural killer cell activity within a matter of months by about 50 percent, suggesting that dietary fat might increase the formation of cancer by depressing the tumor surveillance capacity of the immune system.

The bottom line in terms of fasting is that, at present, long-term fasting in cancer treatment is supported only by some case reports; so, more research is desperately needed. Sadly, there is currently no clinical research evaluating the effects of water-only fasting and a whole food, plant-based diet on follicular lymphoma in humans. Long-term fasting is certainly not without risk. In this case, a guy opted to try a 60-day fast instead of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, ending up hospitalized in a coma and respiratory failure because of Wernicke encephalopathy, a life-threatening neurological emergency caused by thiamine deficiency. But starting on a healthier diet seems like a win-win no-brainer. Just putting people on a plant-based, whole foods, sugar-oil-salt-free diet, with or without fasting, is sometimes sufficient to induce an intense healing response.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 2015, a remarkable case report was published in which a woman with stage 3 follicular lymphoma underwent a medically supervised, 21-day water-only fast, after which her enlarged lymph nodes were substantially reduced in size. The patient then remained on a whole food, plant-based diet, and at six and nine-month follow-up visits she remained asymptomatic.

In 2018, her three-year follow-up was published. Remarkably, she appeared to remain cancer-free, confirmed by CT and PET scans. Her cancer appeared to have been knocked down and out. The initial regression has persisted for the three years with no additional intervention other than the dietary change. Could it have just been a coincidence? Sure, but the initial regression directly coincided with the timing of her water-only fast, suggesting a causal relationship, and there are biological mechanisms by which fasting may potentiate tumor regression, such as decreasing levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).

The term “spontaneous regression” of cancer is a misnomer. Obviously, there was something that caused the regression, whether or not we know what it is. Presumably the immune system plays a role. The fact that you can get a marked increase in cancer rates when you are immunosuppressed suggests that cancers are popping up all the time, but your immune system is normally able to keep them at bay. There was an example, for instance, of a regression after a transfusion of blood from a patient who had previously sustained a spontaneous regression; or cases of patients who had been free of metastases for 15 or 20 years, only to develop rapidly fatal metastases after some type of stress or shock that apparently sharply reduced their resistance.

For most cancers, spontaneous regression is exceedingly rare, but lymphoma is an exception. Of 140 cases of nodular lymphoma (which is what they used to call follicular lymphoma), there were 18 cases of at least partial and 6 cases of complete regression. So, like 1 in 25 cases just go away on their own. So, when you have follicular lymphoma cases in which tumors shrink after any kind of treatment—in this case after some herbal supplement—you always have to ask: is this cause-and-effect or just coincidence?

Elevated natural killing activity may be one of the possible mechanisms responsible for spontaneous regression of malignant lymphoma. Natural killer cells may be part of our first line of defense against cancer by destroying tumor cells. And if you compare the natural killer cell activity of those with malignant lymphoma that spontaneously regressed, versus those whose cancer didn’t, or a control group, the spontaneous regression group does seem to be on the high end.

How can we increase natural killer cell activity naturally? Exercise can do it, unless, apparently, you’re eating a high-fat diet. Those randomized to undergo an exercise training program on a high-fat diet actually suffered a decline in natural killer cell activity, suggesting training on a high-fat diet is detrimental to the immune system. Eating lots of contaminated fatty fish may also adversely affect natural killer cell levels. But put people on a low-fat diet, and you can dramatically increase natural killer cell activity within a matter of months by about 50 percent, suggesting that dietary fat might increase the formation of cancer by depressing the tumor surveillance capacity of the immune system.

The bottom line in terms of fasting is that, at present, long-term fasting in cancer treatment is supported only by some case reports; so, more research is desperately needed. Sadly, there is currently no clinical research evaluating the effects of water-only fasting and a whole food, plant-based diet on follicular lymphoma in humans. Long-term fasting is certainly not without risk. In this case, a guy opted to try a 60-day fast instead of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, ending up hospitalized in a coma and respiratory failure because of Wernicke encephalopathy, a life-threatening neurological emergency caused by thiamine deficiency. But starting on a healthier diet seems like a win-win no-brainer. Just putting people on a plant-based, whole foods, sugar-oil-salt-free diet, with or without fasting, is sometimes sufficient to induce an intense healing response.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

If you missed the previous video, see A Case of Stage 3 Cancer Reversal with Fasting.

Fasting for even a few days can also decrease the side effects of cancer treatment. See:

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