A ketogenic diet in combination with gemcitabine increases survival in pancreatic cancer KPC mice

Natalia E. Cortez, Cecilia Rodriguez Lanzi, Brian V. Hong, Jihao Xu, Fangyi Wang, Shuai Chen, Jon J. Ramsey, Matthew G. Pontifex, Michael Müller, David Vauzour, Payam Vahmani, Chang-Il Hwang, Karen Matsukuma, Gerardo G. Mackenzie

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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) continues to be a major health problem. A ketogenic diet (KD), characterized by a very low carbohydrate and high fat composition, has gained attention for its anti-tumor potential. We evaluated the effect and mechanisms of feeding a strict KD alone or in combination with gemcitabine in the autochthonous LSL-KrasG12D/+; LSL-Trp53 R172H/+; Pdx1-Cre (KPC) mouse model. For this purpose, both male and female pancreatic tumor-bearing KPC mice were allocated to a control diet (CD; %kcal: 70% carb, 14% protein, 16% fat), a KD (%kcal: 14% protein, 1% carb, 85% fat), a CD + gemcitabine (CG), or a KD + gemcitabine (KG) group. Mice fed a KD alone or in combination with gemcitabine showed significantly increased blood β-hydroxybutyrate levels compared to mice fed a CD or CG. KPC mice fed a KG had a significant increase in overall median survival compared to KPC mice fed a CD (increased overall median survival by 42%). Interestingly, when the data was disaggregated by sex, the effect of a KG was significant in female KPC mice (60% increase in median overall survival), but not in male KPC mice (28% increase in median overall survival). Mechanistically, the enhanced survival response to a KD combined with gemcitabine was multifactorial, including inhibition of ERK and AKT pathways, regulation of fatty acid metabolism and the modulation of the gut microbiota. In summary, a KD in combination with gemcitabine appears beneficial as a treatment strategy in PDAC in KPC mice, deserving further clinical evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951–965
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Research Communications
Issue number9
Early online date11 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2022

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