Diet is a key health determinant. Its impact on diabetes and cardiovascular disease is well known. But does it matter for cancer outcome?

Recent discoveries suggest so. Omitting selected amino acids (components of protein) from the diet can slow tumor growth in mice. Fasting enhances the sensitivity of some tumors to chemotherapy. A ketogenic diet does too because the carbohydrate level is so low that eating fails to induce insulin. Insulin is the key hormonal indicator of the “fed” state and a factor in tumor growth.

Diet also impacts anticancer immune response. In ways not yet well understood, the bacteria in our intestine (the gut microbiome), which are impacted by the food that we eat, shape the activity of tumor-attacking T cells. A high-fiber diet promotes, via the microbiome, immunotherapy efficacy.

At the Ludwig Princeton Branch, we will explore the biochemical basis by which diet impacts cancer. We will build rational and quantitative understanding of diet’s influence on cancer’s growth, chemotherapy sensitivity, and immune response, and how these factors vary across tumor types and individuals. In so doing, we will lay the foundation for designer diets that robustly suppress cancer. In parallel, we will engage clinicians to prove the benefits of tailored diets for cancer patients.