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EHE Office of Research
October 10, 2017

The Volek Lab (Human Sciences), in collaboration with Ohio State colleagues Maryam Lustberg, MD, MPH (and the Breast Cancer group), and Michael Knopp, MD, PhD (Wright Center of Innovation in Biomedical Imaging), were recently awarded $651,396 from the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation to explore the effects of nutritional ketosis in women with metastatic breast cancer. Survivability of a late stage breast cancer diagnosis (stage 4) is approximately 20 percent. There currently exists a lack of consensus regarding optimal nutrition strategies for breast cancer survivors, underscoring the need for well-controlled dietary intervention studies investigating promising approaches.

For more than two decades Jeff Volek has been researching how a very lowcarbohydrate, moderate-protein, high-fat (ketogenic) diet impacts human health. The findings of dozens of experiments he has published show that ketogenic diets resulting in a state of nutritional ketosis uniquely benefit obesity, metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes. His group is now turning its attention toward cancer.

The project, entitled Ketogenic Diet and Chemotherapy to Affect Response to Breast Cancer Treatment (The KETO-CARE Study), will enroll women with a recent diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. Utilizing their research kitchen, the Volek team will prepare personalized ketogenic meals to the women for three months, followed by another three months of ketogenic eating on their own. The responses will be compared to a control group undergoing standard of care treatment. State-of-the-art PET/CT imaging will be used to assess tumor progression. Several other biologic and behavioral measures will be tracked, including a focus on immune responses in collaboration with Gerry Krystal at the University of British Columbia. 

Parker Hyde, one of Volek’s doctoral students, will coordinate the project. He recently published a review on the pleiotropic effects of nutritional ketosis on breast cancer ( Teryn Sapper, MS, RD, and Anna Woodruff will oversee dietetic aspects, and Ryan Dickerson will manage immune assays and other biomarkers. 

This will be the first rigorously controlled study to examine the effects of nutritional ketosis in women with advanced breast cancer. According to Volek, “If our hypotheses are correct, we think many women will adapt favorably as evidenced by sustained nutrition ketosis, improvements in tumor response, metabolic and inflammatory/ immune status, body composition and measures of well-being. If that happens, we have an opportunity to make a giant leap forward in improving the lives of women with breast cancer.” 

For additional information about this project, contact Jeff Volek at  


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