Eating a Mediterranean diet, rich in fibre, mono-unsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols, has been associated with improved immunotherapy response rates and progression-free survival in advanced melanoma patients, a new study presented today at UEG Week 2022 has found.1
Experts anticipate that the diet will play an important role in the success of immunotherapy and trials are being expanded to investigate outcomes for different tumour types, including digestive cancers.
A Mediterranean diet, containing mono-and polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts and fish, polyphenols and fibre from vegetables, fruit, and wholegrains, was significantly associated with an improved response to immunotherapy drugs called Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICIs). ICIs, which have been highly successful in treating melanoma, work by blocking immune system checkpoints, which then force the body’s own T-cells to attack cancers.2
The new multi-centre study by researchers from the UK and the Netherlands, recorded the dietary intake of 91 patients with advanced melanoma, who were treated with ICI drugs and monitored their progress with regular radiographic response check-ups.
As well as having a significant association with overall response rate, a Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with progression-free survival at 12 months.
Laura Bolte, author of the study and PhD candidate under supervision of Prof. Rinse Weersma from the University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands, commented, “ICI has helped to revolutionise the treatment of different types of advanced cancers. Our study underlines the importance of dietary assessment in cancer patients starting ICI treatment and supports a role for dietary strategies to improve patient outcomes and survival.”
The study also found that eating wholegrains and legumes reduced the likelihood of developing drug induced immune-related side effects, such as colitis. In contrast, red and processed meat was associated with a higher probability of immune-related side effects.
“The relationship of ICI response with diet and the gut microbiome opens a promising and exciting future to enhance treatment responses. Clinical trials investigating the effect of a high fibre diet, ketogenic diet and supplementation of omega-3 are underway. Since ICI therapy is being expanded to various tumour types, including digestive cancers, these studies could unlock treatment benefits for a large group of cancer patients in the future,” added Laura Bolte.
- Bolte L, et al. Dietary Intake Influences the Response to Cancer Immunotherapy. Presented at UEG Week 2022; 9 October 2022; Vienna, Austria.
- National Cancer Institute. Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy/checkpoint-inhibitors (Accessed: September 2022).