Potential Tactics for Defeating Cancer — A Toolkit in 1,000 Words


(Photo: Irina Souiki)

I’ve wanted to publish this post for years.

It will propose a few simple approaches for minimizing the occurrence of cancer.

With 19 billion capillaries in our bodies, on average, virtually 100% of us have microscopic cancers by the time we’re 70 years old, more than 40% of us by age 40. There’s a good chance you have pinhead-size cancers in your body right now. These “cancers without disease” aren’t typically a problem, as they can’t grow larger than 0.5 mm without a blood supply.

But if cancer cells gets constant blood and glucose? That’s when you can end up dead.

That’s not where I want to be, and it’s not where I want you to be.

A Little Backstory…

While at the annual TED Conference in 2010, I learned that two close friends had been diagnosed with cancer. The year before, another friend had died of pancreatic cancer in his early 30′s.

This all made me furious and sad. It also made me feel helpless.

As luck would have it, TED in 2010 was abuzz about someone named Dr. William Li. His 24-minute presentation had introduced the crowd to “anti-angiogenesis therapy”: in plain English, how to starve cancers of blood. Dr. Li specializes in inhibiting cancer-specific blood-vessel growth, which ostensibly keeps abnormal growth in check. The simplest “drug” he recommended was tea. Drinking a daily blend of white tea (specifically Dragon Pearl jasmine) and green tea (Japanese sencha).

I started drinking the cocktail immediately, but it was just a first step…

In clinical trials, you see, anti-angiogenesis has been largely been unsuccessful. The father of the field, Judah Folkman, was brilliant, but his brainchild (Avastin) has been a disappointment. For about $100,000 a year of Avastin, one might extend lifespan by a month or so.

So, while I kept drinking my tea, I realized it probably wasn’t enough by itself. That said, it pointed me to new research.

I, for one, believe there are systemic causes of cancer with systemic treatments. This belief began with metformin experimentation in college (not recommended without doctor supervision), followed by reading the work and references of Gary Taubes, all of which has been reinforced by conversations with oncologists over the last decade.

All trails have led back to blood and glucose.

It’s also important to realize that killing cancer cells isn’t hard. Doctors have known how to do this for 100+ years. The real questions is: how do you exploit a weakness in cancer that is NOT a weakness in normal cells? Killing cancer is easy. Killing cancer while not killing non-cancer has proven almost impossible.

The below guest post is written by Peter Attia, M.D.. It explores a simple theory of cancer growth, which simultaneously shows how you can minimize it.

Peter is the President of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI). Peter spent five years at the Johns Hopkins Hospital as a general surgery resident, where he was the recipient of several prestigious awards and the author of a comprehensive review of general surgery. Peter also spent two years at the National Institutes of Health as a surgical oncology fellow at the National Cancer Institute under Dr. Steve Rosenberg, where his research focused on the role of regulatory T cells in cancer regression and other immune-based therapies for cancer. Peter earned his M.D. from Stanford University and holds a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

This post is designed to allow you to skim…or go deep. Here are the options:

  • The quickie (10-15 min) - Read the post but ignore footnotes. Definitely a good start if you’re in a rush.
  • The weekend warrior (30 minutes) – Read the post and footnotes, which provide an excellent intro to the science.
  • The semi-pro (60 minutes) – Read the post, footnotes, and at least one top-10 suggested articles. This will give you more of a plan and put you ahead of 90% of the people who discuss cancer.

Enter Pete

One night Tim and I were having dinner and the topic of cancer came up.

Personally and professionally, I have a great interest in cancer, so when Tim asked if I could write something about cancer that was: (i) interesting to a broad audience, (ii) not technically over the top, (iii) not my typical 5,000 word dissertation, (iv) yet nuanced enough for his readers, I agreed to give it a shot, in about 1,000 words.

(Before reading this post, you may find some value in first reading a previous post which sets up the context for this one.)

So here it is, in roughly 1,000 words…


In 1924 a scientist named Otto Warburg happened upon a counterintuitive finding.

Cancer1 cells, even in the presence of sufficient oxygen, underwent a type of metabolism2 cells reserved for rapid energy demand – anaerobic metabolism3. In fact, even when cancer cells were given additional oxygen, they still almost uniformly defaulted into using only glucose4 to make ATP5 via the anaerobic pathway. This is counterintuitive because this way of making ATP is typically a last resort for cells, not a default, due to the very poor yield of ATP.

This observation begs a logical question? Do cancer cells do this because it’s all they can do? Or do they deliberately ‘choose’ to do this?

The first place to look is at the mitochondria6 of the cancer cells. Though not uniformly the case, most cancers do indeed appear to have defects in their mitochondria that prevent them from carrying out oxidative phosphorylation7.

Explanation 1

Cancer cells, like any cells undergoing constant proliferation (recall: cancer cells don’t stop proliferating when told to do so), may be optimizing for something other than energy generation. They may be optimizing for abundant access to cellular building blocks necessary to support near-endless growth. In this scenario, a cancer would prefer to rapidly shuttle glucose through itself. In the process, it generates the energy it needs, but more importantly, it gains access to lots of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms (from the breakdown of glucose). The atoms serve as the necessary input to the rate-limiting step of their survival — growth. The selection of cancer cells is based on this ability to preferentially grow by accessing as much cellular substrate as possible.

Explanation 2

Cells become cancerous because they undergo some form of genetic insult. This insult – damage to their DNA8 – has been shown to result in the turning off of some genes9 (those that suppress tumor growth) and/or the activation of other genes (those that promote cell growth unresponsive to normal cell-signaling). Among other things, this damage to their DNA also damages their mitochondria, rendering cancer cells unable to carry out oxidative phosphorylation. So, to survive they must undergo anaerobic metabolism to make ATP.

Whichever of these is more accurate (a discussion beyond my word count), the end result appears the same – cancer cells almost exclusively utilize glucose to make ATP without the use of their mitochondria. The point is: cancer cells have a metabolic quirk. Regardless of how much oxygen and fatty acid10 they have access to, they preferentially use glucose to make ATP, and they do it without their mitochondria and oxygen.

So, can this be exploited to treat or even prevent cancer?

One way this quirk has been exploited for many years is in medical imaging. FDG-PET scans11 are a useful tool for non-invasively detecting cancer in people. By exploiting the obligate glucose consumption of cancer cells, the FDG-PET scan is a powerful way to locate cancer (see figure).

Cancer Blog Images

You can probably tell where I’m leading you. What happens if we reduce the amount of glucose in the body? Could such an intervention ‘starve’ cancer cells? An insight into this came relatively recently from an unlikely place – the study of patients with type 2 diabetes.

In the past few years, three retrospective studies of patients taking a drug called metformin have shown that diabetic patients who take metformin, even when adjusted for other factors such as body weight and other medications, appear to get less cancer.

And when they do get cancer, they appear to survive longer. Why? The answer may lie in what metformin does. Metformin does many things, to be clear, but chief among them is activating an enzyme called AMP kinase, which is important in suppressing the production of glucose in the liver (the liver manufactures glucose from protein and glycerol and releases it to the rest of the body). This drug is used in patients with diabetes to reduce glucose levels and thereby reduce insulin requirement.

So, the patients taking metformin may have better cancer outcomes because their glucose levels were lower, or because such patients needed less insulin. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) also appear to play an integral role in cancer growth as recently demonstrated by the observation that people with defective IGF-1 receptors appear immune to cancer. Or, it may be that activation of AMP kinase in cancer cells harms them in some other way. We don’t actually know why, but we do know that where there is smoke there is often fire. And the ‘smoke’ in this case is that a relatively innocuous drug that alters glucose levels in the body appears to interfere with cancer.

This may also explain why most animal models show that caloric restriction improves cancer outcomes. Though historically, this observation has been interpreted through the lens of less ‘food’ for cancer. A more likely explanation is that caloric restriction is often synonymous with glucose reduction, and it may be the glucose restriction per se that is keeping the cancer at bay.

Fortunately this paradigm shift in oncology – exploiting the metabolic abnormality of cancer cells – is gaining traction, and doing so with many leaders in the field.

Over a dozen clinical trials are underway right now investigating this strategy in the cancers that appear most sensitive to this metabolic effect – breast, endometrial, cervical, prostate, pancreatic, colon, and others. Some of these trials are simply trying to reproduce the metformin effect in a prospective, blinded fashion. Other trials are looking at sophisticated ways to target cancer by exploiting this metabolic abnormality, such as targeting PI3K12 directly.

To date, no studies in humans are evaluating the therapeutic efficacy of glucose and/or insulin reduction via diet, though I suspect that will change in the coming year or two, pending outcomes of the metformin trials.

EDITOR’S NOTE:Though it might seem premature to some, let’s make this actionable. To reduce glucose, consider following a diet (way of eating, really) such as The Slow-Carb Diet, Paleo, or any diet that induces ketosis. Many of the most influential researchers in the US, in addition to following ketogenic diets, take slow-acting metformin as a preemptive measure. NOTE: This should NOT be done without medical supervision.


I’ve been absurdly blessed to study this topic at the feet of legends, and to be crystal clear, not a single thought represented here is original work emanating from my brain. I’m simply trying to reconstruct the story and make it more accessible to a broader audience. Though I trained in oncology, my research at NIH/NCI focused on the role of the immune system in combating cancer. My education in the metabolism of cancer has been formed by the writings of those below, and from frequent discussions with a subset of them who have been more than generous with their time, especially Lewis Cantley (who led the team that discovered PI3K) and Dominic D’Agostino.

• Otto Warburg
• Lewis Cantley
• Dominic D’Agostino
• Craig Thompson
• Thomas Seyfried
• Eugene Fine
• Richard Feinman (not to be confused with Richard Feynman)
• Rainer Klement
• Reuben Shaw
• Matthew Vander Heiden
• Valter Longo

Further Reading from Tim — A Top-10 List

There is a deluge of writing about cancer.

Below, I’ve suggested a top-10 list of articles as starting points. Some are for lay audiences, some are technical, but all are worth the time to read. Here you go:

Looking for articles to pass to your parents, or to read as a lay person? Read these, in this order:
1. Non-technical talk by Craig Thompson, Pres/CEO of Sloan-Kettering
2. Science piece written about cancer (for non-technical audience) by Gary Taubes

Have a little background and want the 80/20 analysis, the greatest bang for the buck? Read this:
3. Relatively non-technical review article on the Warburg Effect written by Vander Heiden, Thompson, and Cantley

Peaking on modafinil during a flight to Tokyo? Want to deep dive for a few hours? Here are three recommendations, in this order:
4. Detailed review article by Tom Seyfried
5. Review article on the role of carb restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer
6. Talk given by author of above paper for those who prefer video

Want four bonus reads, all very good? As you wish:
7. Moderately technical review article by Shaw and Cantley
8. Clinical paper on the role of metformin in breast cancer by Ana Gonzalez-Angulo
9. Mouse study by Dom D’Agostino’s group examining role of ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen on a very aggressive tumor model
10. Mechanistic study by Feinman and Fine assessing means by which acetoacetate (a ketone body) suppresses tumor growth in human cancer cell lines

Afterword by Tim

It’s my hope that this short article offers hope. Moreover, it’s intended to offer actionable directions for those dealing with cancer or fearful of it.

Note a few things:

  • I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet. Make medical decisions with medical supervision.
  • This is a 1,000-word primer and therefore simplified. It’s not incorrect, but it is not comprehensive either, as it would impossible to digest for most people. Be sure to read the “further reading” above if you’re serious.

Have you stumbled upon any novel science/treatments related to cancer? Please share in the comments below, if so, as I’d love this post to become a living resource.

Many thanks for reading this far.



  1. A collection of cells in our bodies that grow at roughly normal speeds, but that do not respond appropriately to cell signaling. In other words, while a collection of ‘normal’ cells will grow and stop growing in response to appropriate messages from hormones and signals, cancer cells have lost this property. Contrary to popular misconception, cancers cells do not grow especially fast relative to non-cancer cells. The problem is they don’t ‘know’ when to stop growing. []
  2. The process of converting the stored energy in food (chemical energy contained mostly within the bonds of carbon and hydrogen atoms) into usable energy for the body to carry out essential and non-essential work (e.g., ion transport, muscle contraction). []
  3. The process of extracting ATP from glucose (but not fatty acids) when the demand for ATP is so great that the body cannot deliver oxygen to cells quickly enough to accommodate the more efficient aerobic pathway. The good news is that we can do this (otherwise a brief sprint, or very difficult exertion would be impossible). The bad news is this process generates much less ATP per carbon molecule (about 4 units of ATP per molecule of glucose), and it generates lactate, which is accompanied by hydrogen ions. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s the latter that causes the burning in your muscles when you ask your body to do something very demanding, not the former). []
  4. A very simple sugar which many carbohydrates ultimately get broken down into via digestion; glucose is a ring of 6-carbon molecules and has the potential to deliver a lot, or a little, ATP, depending on how it is metabolized. []
  5. Adenosine triphosphate, the ‘currency’ of energy used by the body. As its name suggests, this molecule has three (tri) phosphates. Energy is liberated for use when the body converts ATP to ADP (adenosine diphosphate), by cutting off one of the phosphate ions in exchange for energy. []
  6. The part of the cell where aerobic metabolism takes place. Think of a cell as a town and the mitochondria as the factory that converts the stored energy into usable energy. If food is natural gas, and usable energy is electricity, the mitochondria are the power plants. But remember, mitochondria can only work when they have enough oxygen to process glucose or fatty acids. If they don’t, the folks outside of the factory have to make due with sub-optimally broken down glucose and suboptimal byproducts. []
  7. Aerobic metabolism is the process of extracting ATP from glucose or fatty acids when the demand for ATP is not too great, which permits the process to take place with sufficient oxygen in the cell. This process is highly efficient and generates a lot of ATP (about 36 units, for example, from one molecule of glucose) and it’s easy to manage waste products (oxygen and carbon dioxide). The process of turning glucose and fatty acid into lots of ATP using oxygen is called ‘oxidative phosphorylation.’ []
  8. Deoxyribonucleic acid, to be exact, is the so-called “building block” of life. DNA is a collection of 4 subunits (called nucleotides) that, when strung together, create a code. Think of nucleotides like letters of the alphabet. The letters can be rearranged to form words, and words can be strung together to make sentences. []
  9. If nucleotides are the letters of the alphabet, and DNA is the words and sentences, genes are the books – a collection of words strung together to tell a story. Genes tell our body what to build and how to build it, among other things. In recent years, scientists have come to identify all human genes, though we still have very little idea what most genes ‘code’ for. It’s sort of like saying we’ve read all of War and Peace, but we don’t yet understand most of it. []
  10. The breakdown product of fats (either those stored in the body or those ingested directly) which can be of various lengths (number of joined carbon atoms) and structures (doubled bonds between the carbon atoms or single bonds). []
  11. A type of ‘functional’ radiographic study, often called a ‘pet scan’ for short, used to detect cancer in patients with a suspected tumor burden (this test can’t effectively detect small amounts of cancer and only works for ‘established’ cancers). F18 is substituted for -OH on glucose molecules, making something called 2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG), an analog of glucose. This molecule is detectable by PET scanners (because of the F18) and shows which parts of the body are most preferentially using glucose. []
  12. Phosphoinositide 3-kinase, commonly called PI3K (pronounced ‘pee-eye-three-kay’), is an enzyme (technically, a family of enzymes) involved in cell growth and proliferation. Not surprisingly, these enzymes play an important role in cancer growth and survival, and cancer cells often have mutations in the gene encoding PI3K, which render PI3K even more active. PI3Ks are very important in insulin signaling, which may in part explain their role in cancer growth, as you’ll come to understand. []

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191 comments on “Potential Tactics for Defeating Cancer — A Toolkit in 1,000 Words

  1. Hey Tim: I very much appreciate this article on cancer. There are two more very close to the root sources for you to explore. One is WORLD WITHOUT CANCER by G. Edward Griffin, who records the discovery of the cause of and cure for the big C in the 1970s at the Sloan Kettering Institute. The research indicated cancer is similar to scurvy in that it is a nutritional deficiency. If one gets Vitamin C, one does not get scurvy. If one gets Vitamin B17, one does not get cancer. B17 unfortunately is not found in the modern diet, which, along with the many carcinogens in our diet and environment, may go some way to explaining the explosion of cancer cases in recent decades.

    The other is TOMORROW’S CANCER CURES TODAY, outlining the work of a couple of dozen doctors around the world who are successfully treating cancer using … a couple of dozen different protocols.

    Love, Laughter and Smiles. Matti
    P.S. As a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, I often quote Dr. Warburg on deep breathing and its importance in health. Laughter helps to oxygenate the effectively (and in a fun way).

  2. I don’t usually comment (though I read so many of your posts) but since I sent this to 2 of my friends with cancer and they were both very grateful. Thank you for always being ahead of the curve, Tim.

  3. Interesting. Most of this stuff goes way over my head. However, even as a small preventative measure I found the bit about the white and green tea combo to be interesting. I’ve been an avid tea drinker for years, I believe green tea is the “elixir of life” as I once heard. I am curious as to why this gentleman believes in that certain concoction, the White tea/Jasimine pearls mix with the Sencha. From what I understood, I thought that Gyrokuro green tea was a higher brand than the Sencha. Maybe it doesn’t matter? Anyway, facinating read and my condolences to your friend. Keep up the good work!

  4. Quick clarification – is Dr. Attia implying that a low-glucose diet (ketogenic I would presume) is the logical conclusion when seeking to starve the cancer cells? Interesting ketogenic diets are used for treating epilepsy and other health issues.

  5. Excellent Information but it appears We Are some
    Way to finding a cure. I believe that stress causes cancer
    And the Body is reacting accordingly. An excellent example is
    From Anita moorjiani – dying to be me. I believe
    one way øf addressing stress is through meditation

  6. There is a great webinar by a doctor who healed himself naturally from terminal brain, bone and blood cancer. He gives very detailed information on how he did it.

    One of the things he used was turmeric, which has been studied extensively for its anti-cancer benefits, In some cases, it makes the cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy while protecting healthy cells.
    http://www.curcuminresearch.org has many studies on the anti-cancer properties of turmeric and curcumin.

  7. I used the ketogenic protocol with the direction of a naturopath. The results I had were too incredible for an oncologist to even register that his treatments had nothing to do with it. I have been in remission for 6 years. Still follow the keto protocol (moderated!)

  8. There is an excellent book available on this subject with a full diet plan. I have used it myself and found it very informative and useful especially given I knew nothing about the subject. The author, Ellen Davis, has been great with advice as well. The book, The Ketogenic Diet for Treating Cancer, is well written and easy to use. Her website is also a great starting place for understanding these ideas. http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com

  9. I really love this era that we are living in. It seems that BLOGs, YES, BLOGS are one of the major reasons why science and medicine is advancing so fast now. 30 years ago, we had to rely on very few people (pharmaceuticals or researchers) to come out with knowledge and solutions to our health problems But now anybody that has interest in it can “chip in” and add to the conversation, help or otherwise advance our common knowledge. And people like you, Tim are the reason that we will be healthier, faster.

    Gotta love technologies and the web!

  10. My wife was diagnosed with a very aggressive strain of breast cancer (ER PR neg. HER2 pos.). Her oncologist told me that among breast cancers the only kind more aggressive are triple negative types. I have been on a search for science based strategies to extend her life, with some success.

    I received Tim’s post on cancer treatment, read it and will reread it for more actionable ideas. I also posted a comment to Tim’s post and posted a reply to another comment. I asked to be notified whenever a new comment came was submitted about this post. I think the number and type of comments illustrate the challenge faced by late stage cancer survivors. Try Googling a phrase like “surviving cancer”. My last attempt I got about 39 million possible answers.

    Within the many responses I’m sure there are some comments that are based on science and evidence and are worth considering using in cancer patient’s strategies. However I also saw numerous comments that brought up strategies that have been debunked by science. For example someone posted comments promoting Gerson Therapy. Dr. Michael Greger (who runs thenonprofit organization nutritionfacts.org) produced an excellent short video based on studies putting Gerson Therapy against conventional chemo. Dr. Greger is hardly a conventional doctor; he is a vegan and scours thousands of nutritional studies each year to produce brief videos bringing the usable essence of these studies through his free videos produced by his nonprofit organization, nutritionfacts.org. But the science is what it is. Gerson Therapy comes out looking pretty bad when comparing rate of survival as compared with chemo. However a late stage cancer patient, desperately looking for any ray of hope doesn’t know the science. All he knows is sincere sounding people are promoting some ideas that sound like they offer hope. So he (or she) will waste precious weeks and months of time that he can ill afford to waste chasing an oasis. He will pour hundreds or thousands of precious dollars down another illusory hole leading nowhere.

    Scientific studies are based on consistently repeated patterns of cure, healing or suppression of disease, not occasional miraculous spontaneous remissions that lure the unknowing toward illusions in their desperate search for answers.

    My advice to everyone looking for answers is to be careful who you believe. The cancer internet community is populated by correct science, hype, opportunists, truth, lies, sincere believers and more. The tragedy is that many desperate people with late stage cancer don’t always have their BS detectors turned on or operating properly.

    • I just looked at the website of Michael Greger, and watched the 3 min video.

      Here is the link if anybody wants to check it out. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/gerson-therapy-vs-chemotherapy/

      The comments below the video should also be read as they look into the context (i.e pancreatic cancer) of the study. Below is a few of the comments from the video, one of which is from Dr. Greger. I hope I do not offend the people who wrote the posts as I have just compiled and pasted them here omitting there names.

      It seems like the Gerson Therapy in this study was ultimately worse than conventional medicine using Gemcitabine-based-chemotherapy.

      But, remember pancreatic cancer is the hardest cancer to cure and maybe its not a good example for cancer cure using any type of conventional nor alternative medication. We must remember, once the pancreas is damaged the essential enzymes that actually helps in the treatment of all types of cancer have been diminished (trypsin and chmytrypsin: Dr. John Beard ) An overall multiple cancer study on all types of cancers should be also tested: breast cancer, lung cancer,liver cancer, etc.to establish the effects of an vegetarian, vegan or using the Gerson therapy treatment vs conventional. In this way there can be no bias and the real treatment and survival rates maybe fully and better determined towards a mutiple of cancer types.

      We must remember that the survival rate of conventional medicine for cancer is only around 5-10%, because the radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs used. Chemo and radiation does kill cancer cells, but they also destroy the immune system and that may be the reason why most persons do not survival for more than a 5 year period.

      I still think more studies need to be carried out to fully determine the whole impact or picture towards cancer pateinets on a plant-based-diet using the Gerson therapy or another alternative treatment vs an animal based diet using chemo and radiation and non-chemo and radiation treatment.

      Dr, Greger has not done his homework. I am disappointed in this review. I expect more Dr. Greger! Are you tied to the ACI? This study was using the Gonazalez NOT the Gerson Therapy. Dr. Gonazalez has written a book outlining how the study was totally flawed. Here is a link with a summary rebuttal. http://www.dr-gonzalez.com/jco

      Michael Greger M.D. N
      That is why I referred to is as a “Gerson-style regime.” Thank you for passing along that link. I’ll check out his book and if I think it has merit do a follow-up video!

  11. Since Peter has a mechanical engineering background I was wondering if anyone has looked into the mechanical side of the chemistry. It may be energetically and structurally favourable for cancer cells to use glucose / or glutamine (as one of the reviews goes into).

    I have a background in material science (my PhD was in it) but also have spent over a decade in space and aerospace engineering (plasma engines). I’m familiar with the concept of multimode systems. It sounds like an alternative approach is to look at the Least Energy Principle – it sounds like cancer cells continue to exist because their structure and dynamics allow them to adapt and maintain integrity. It also sounds like they are metastable relative to “normal” cells. Can the cell structure be energised to a higher thermodynamic state that could then decay to a lower one that is easier to fight? The trick may be to make them evolve and mutate even more?

    I’d like to get involved in this even if it means reading loads and loads of papers for a year. The best email to get me at is my first name (as above) at my full name with initila (as above) plus a dot and a com.

  12. Tim,

    I am actually rather surprised that the article by Travis M Christofferson on Robb Wolf’s website (http://robbwolf.com/2013/09/19/origin-cancer/) isn’t in your list of suggested reading. Maybe you consider it as too long?

    But that specific article totally got me excited about this subject (even asked Robb that I may translate it into German and publish on my blog which he was OK with: more than 20 pages!). I then was made aware of a Prof. Dr. Kämmerer at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany who seems to be a known name in the industry for research on fighting cancer by the principles of Warburg (ketosis etc). She has written a very good book that I read and which I recommend. It’s only available in German so far but it’s in the process of being translated into English. Since fighting cancer is such an important subject to you I would suggest that you also touch base with her, for an interview, an article, whatever. I am in contact with her and feel that she has a LOT to offer to the world in terms of fighting cancer, but as most scientists with a message she needs support from influencers, like you. It would without doubt be a great thing to make her content known to a broad mass of people in the English speaking world.

    Regards from Greece,

  13. It is rarely one thing, and I do not downplay the importance of anaerobic glycolysis in cancer. However, exercise was not mentioned in this post, which I see as a common oversight in oncology. If one were to exercise the morning of a PETscan it would totally ruin the scan because the image would be washed out due to so much radiated fructose going to the muscles. What does this mean on a daily basis for cancer glucose consumption, particularly since glucose uptake in the muscles and liver is elevated for hours after exercise? Furthermore, many type II diabetics can get off of medication by utilizing exercise. How much does this influence getting cancer, or cancer progression?

    One criticism of this recent Metformin ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24141625 ) study in prostate cancer is how many of those subjects also exercised? If they did, were their results better than Metformin, or was the combination of both the best? This highlights a common omission in oncology – the failure to record an exercise profile at the time of a diagnosis, biopsy, or other healthcare.

    Why is this important? We know that exercise decreases the risk of developing cancer, and that exercise can decrease the risk of mortality form prostate cancer. Which makes the results from the following study even more interesting – tumor blood vessel improvement (rounder vessels) was significantly correlated to better survival.


    Yes, improving tumor blood flow improves survival. Contrary to inhibiting the blood supply to cancers espoused by Dr. Li. In fact, some researchers have found that anti-angiogenic therapy (choking off the blood supply) can promote metastasis – win the battle but lose the war? (second link below) Much of this can be read in the work of Rakesh Jain, it is called vascular normalizaton hypothesis, which takes Folkman in a different direction.


    Antiangiogenic Therapy Elicits Malignant Progression of Tumors to Increased Local Invasion and Distant Metastasis

    My intuition, and what I focused on prior to chemotherapy, was to improve the blood supply to my tumors as much as possible with exercise, which was in my control. In theory, this should elicit a better ROS chemotherapy response (radiation too).

    In exercised trained people more fatty acids are used for fuel and glycogen sparing occurs. How might this also affect tumor glucose consumption? Are these effects of training, combined with a caloric restriction the best way to combat cancer rather than just utilizing one strategy?

  14. What about the pilot studies that have already been performed? The Jaminets in “Perfect Health Diet” describe some pretty nasty train wrecks that have occurred when ketogenic diets have been used on cancer patients (the exception being brain cancer, which responds well).

  15. Great articlle about treating cancer once it has become a problem. Have you written about methods of prevention such as Gerson-styled hyper nutrition and correcting the body’s ph? You may have and I missed it; I’m new to your work.
    All the best to you,
    Muiris FitzGerald, NYC.

  16. Great post. I’m very interested in preventing cancer. I can add this post to my “library”. I think there is very strong connection
    “cancer -> glucose levels” or just “cancer -> sugar”.

  17. On Friday my father was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. He has a large mass in his upper left lung. We have not been to see the Specialist yet but are anxiously awaiting to meet with them. I am just starting to research this for him so this post is very timely. We will be going to UCSD which I’m told is very good. Any advise specific to Lung Cancer (besides telling my dad not to start smoking 40 years ago) I would greatly appreciate. We are obviously very scared, its encouraging to read all of these wonderful stories though from survivors below. I know my fathers diet is currently terrible. If I can even buy time, as much as possible, I would love for him to be able to meet his grandson due in July

    • Hi
      I’ve never had cancer but I do know two people personally who were diagnosed and treated their illness with a herbal tea known as Essiac. google it and you’ll find a lot of positive testimonials. A Canadian nurse treated “terminal” cancer patients with this herbal blend with astounding success.

      I mention this because one of the personal cases was lung cancer in a smoker friend. His only treatment (he was uninsured) was the Essiac protocol of tea drinking. It worked for him and astounded his doctor.

      Bottom line – it does no harm, and it may do good. I drink it each day as a preventative.

  18. Hi!
    I was just wondering whether to be an entrepreneur a university degree is necessary? Or in particular a business/ commerce degree?
    If so how would it help/ is there any other way to learn the ropes?

  19. Fat v Sugar
    This just aired on the BBC in the UK. It has some relevance to the article and Tim’s approach in general.
    Scarily it demonstrates extremes and ‘people’ are bound to take it literally…..especially since the ‘twin on sugar’ came out better!!

    Long story short…..eat what we evolved to eat…simple!

  20. John Hopkins was the only facility that agreed to a 15 year olds request to test his screening test for pancreatic cancer two summers ago. He also had lost someone he loved and was outraged to learn that the short time between diagnosis and death was directly linked to the fact that testing was routinely done through a process developed 60 years ago and was accurate when patients had a 2% chance of survival. Almost the same odds of detection of an autopsy! 5 minutes, 90% accuracy, 3 cents! Enjoy. (http://new.ted.com/talks/jack_andraka_a_promising_test_for_pancreatic_cancer_from_a_teenager)

  21. Tim,
    Let me first thank you for your experiment in the 4HWW. I am a late bloomer and just completed reading it. Dreamlines, muse, fears are all swirling in my head and for that I thank you.

    Next I wanted to speak to “Have you stumbled upon any novel science/treatments related to cancer?” I ran into an interesting point of view on cancer while pursuing my current field of study computer security. “Computer Security?” your may asked well I was watching a TED event on computer security from Danny Hillis. Another video by him on TED is titled Danny Hillis: Understanding cancer through proteomics. Very interesting worth a look. The basics are how doctors diagnose cancer may be inherently flawed and offers another solution. Please take the time for your or your PA to review worth 20 min of time.

  22. Something I have come across in my own search for ways to prevent cancer: salvestrols. You can find a lot of info by searching online.

    Here’s an excerpt from the Canceractive website which explains the research and development of salvestrols :
    ‘In 2002, Gerry Potter, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at DeMonfort University Leicester School of Pharmacy identified and outlined a nutritional rescue mechanism that linked specific compounds in some of the most common foods we eat with cancer cell death. This rescue mechanism hinged on the metabolic activity of a certain cytochrome P450 enzyme, CYP1B1.

    Cytochrome P450 enzymes constitute a host of some 5,800 enzymes existing throughout nature. 57 cytochrome P450 enzymes exist in humans. They have the ability to make many toxins and drugs water soluble and thus clear them from the body. They are our natural ´detox´ mechanism.

    Importantly, the CYP1B1 enzyme was found to be expressed by all cancers, regardless of oncogenic origin, while being absent from healthy tissue (Murray GI., et al; University of Aberdeen 1995). It has now been found throughout all stages of cancer and is widely regarded as a universal cancer marker. Professor Potter had originally designed a pro-drug inhibitor (abiraterone acetate for a cytochrome P450 enzyme in prostate cancer. So when Professor Burke explained about CYP1B1, he wondered if there were pro-drug inhibitors for that too. But then the CYP1B1 factor has been around in nature for thousand of years. Maybe it wasn´t bad news. Maybe it was good news.

    First he started to design a pro-drug that was benign on entry to the body, that CYP1B1 would turn into a highly toxic drug and kill the cancer cell uniquely. This he called Stilserene. Laboratory testing showed it effective in 95 per cent of cases with breast cancer cells. Since healthy cells do not carry the CYP1B1 enzyme, this really was a seek and destroy, pro-drug. However, of course, this now needs to go through very lengthy clinical trials, and the drug development could take years. Since Potter was convinced it worked, and the CYP1B1 enzyme has been around for thousands of years, he wondered if the pro-drug could be something that was naturally occurring. Something that in combination with CYP1B1 could Protect and Correct.

    At the same time there was an explosion in research into a natural compound called resveratrol, the compound talked about above in the context of Chris Woollams´ Rainbow Diet, and the French Paradox.

    Resveratrol had already been shown to have anti-cancer properties (for example, Jang M et al 1997, and 1999) and it is a bioactive compound called a Stilbene, very close in formula to Stilserene.

    And so it was found that CYP1B1 metabolizes a specific class of dietary compound that Professors Potter and Professor Dan Burke (Professor Emeritus of Pharmaceutical Metabolism), named Salvestrols.

    When Salvestrols are metabolized by CYP1B1, new compounds are produced that are anti-cancer agents and actually cause apoptosis, or death, in the cancer cell.

    Salvestrols are one of the main defenders in the plant kingdom. When a plant is attacked, salvestrols are produced primarily at the site of attack (the grape skin, or a plant root). They are natural anti-fungal agents and illicit the same P450 response in plant or in human situations.

    So a seemingly random collection of unrelated foods produce natural compounds to ward off attacks by fungi or predators. The most notable natural compound is probably resveratrol which is produced as a defence mechanism by red grape skins. But there are many others. Although these foods contain sugars which attract the predators, they tend to be bitter.

    The list of foods includes: Broccoli, cabbages, kales, savoy, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kohlrabi, chinese leaf, spinach, chard, lettuces, watercress, green beans, broad beans, garden peas.

    Artichokes (globe), red & yellow peppers, beansprouts, celery, salad rocket, avocado, pumpkins, squashes, gourds, marrows, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, gherkins.

    All red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, grapes:and plums plus blackcurrants, redcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, cranberries, bilberries. Apples, pears, pineapples.

    And herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil and mint.

    In the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol 25, No. 1, 2010 (with authors Brian A. Schaefer, D.Phil.,Catherine Dooner, B.A, M. Danny Burke, Ph.D, Gerard A. Potter, Ph.D) there was a presentation of case histories involving five cancers, breast; prostate; colon; liver; and Hodgkins lymphoma. To quote the authors, Two of the cases show how rapid and dramatic the improvement can be when nutritional deficits are addressed. In each case of the five studies the patient used Salvestrols to significant effect

    Modern Nutritional Deficiencies

    Salvestrols operate through a highly targeted mechanism that hinges on their metabolism by the universal cancer marker CYP1B1. Most usually this simply makes up for previous nutritional deficiencies.

    Unfortunately modern farming practices for example spraying fruits with pesticides reduces production of the natural defensive compounds. GMO foods will not need them, pasteurizing fruit juices decreases them, and modern diets simply do not include these common foods like cabbages and raspberries and so people lack the important phytonutrients.

    These phytonutrients are all phytoalexins and are not induced in abundance until the plant comes under attack from infection or predation. If modern farming prevents the attack through spraying or GMO then the phytoalexins are simply not made.


    Salvestrols operate as natural pro-drugs, completely targeted to killing diseased cancer cells while leaving the normal cells alone. Initial research indicates that this mechanism could operate both preventatively, killing off cells as they become cancerous, and therapeutically, killing off cells that are part of active disease. (i.e. Prevention and Correction).

    The authors of the above paper conclude Within the context of a nutritional approach to treating cancer, this mechanism appears to significantly reduce cancer cells in the body and thus increase chances of a beneficial outcome for a cancer sufferer. It is also true that when one chooses to utilize Salvestrols in combating this disease, a broader nutritional approach will aid in the efficient operation of this rescue mechanism. Co-factors such as biotin, vitamin C, vitamin B3, magnesium and iron are all known to be important. Other nutritional components, such as fatty acids, probiotics and selenium, also play important roles.


    Resveratrol has been shown to be attacked by an enzyme unique to pre-cancerous and cancer cells to produce a toxic substance (piceatannol) which brings about cell death. The anti-cancer agent piceatonnal is caused by the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP 1B1. (Br J Cancer, 2002; 86: 774-778).

    No one is talking about a cancer ´cure´. What people are clearly saying is that there are interesting features of Salvestrols which may help to protect and correct, and this could well be the prime mechanism for how we have prevented developing cancer over thousands of years. It is still early days yet.

    Conflict of Interest?

    There may well be none. Salvestrols could well be the ultimate agents of Prevention and Correction. But of all the research studies it is important to point out that in some the leading researchers have developed a range of Salvestrol products that they sell. Dr. Brian Schaefer is a Director of Acquired Intelligence Inc, the Canadian and US distributor of Salvestrols. Professor Dan Burke is a shareholder of Salvestrol Natural Products, the UK developer of the salvestrol technology. Professor Gerry Potter is a shareholder of Salvestrol Natural Products, the UK developer of the salvestrol technology.

    Several products are available:

    Salvestrol Platinum for people with cancer; plus Salvestrol Gold for prevention, Salvestrol Professional, Salvestrol Shield plus a topical cream. Each has a points system to indicate strength and each is all natural.

    Please note that salvestrol products do not contain naringenin, a compound commonly found in grapefruit, which may interact with several CYP enzymes and could therefore interfere with some drug therapies.

    We are indebted forfurther contributions for this article from Brian Schaefer (www.salvestrols.com)


    * Potter GA: The role of CYP 1B1 as a tumour suppressor enzyme. Br J Cancer, 2002; 86 (Suppl 1), S12, 2002.
    * Potter GA, Patterson LH, Wanogho E, et al: The cancer preventative agent resveratrol is converted to the anticancer agent piceatonnal by the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP 1B1. Br J Cancer, 2002; 86: 774-778.
    * Potter GA, Burke DM: Salvestrols Natural Products with Tumour Selective Activity. J Ortho Med, 2006; 21, 1: 34-36.
    * Tan HL, Butler, PC, Burke, MD, et al: Salvestrols: A New Perspective in Nutritional Research. J Ortho Med, 2007; 22(1): 39-47.
    * Murray GI, Taylor MC, McFadyen MCE, et al: Tumor specific expression of cytochrome P450 CYP 1B1. Cancer Res, 1997; 57: 3026-3031.
    * McFadyen MCE, Melvin WT, Murray GI.: Cytochrome P450 CYP1B1 activity in renal cell carcinoma. Br J Cancer, 2004; 91: 966-971.
    * McFadyen MCE, Cruickshank ME, Miller ID, et al: Cytochrome P450 CYP1B1 over-expression in primary and metastatic ovarian cancer. Br J Cancer, 2001; 85:2426.
    * Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Cytochrome P450 1B1 is a Universal Tumor Antigen Eliciting Cytotoxic T Cell Responses, 2007. http://www.danafarber.org/res/technology/available.asp?case_number=641&keywords=&category_id=3&category_name=Researc+Reagents
    * Potter GA: The role of CYP 1B1 as a tumour suppressor enzyme. Br J Cancer, 2002; 86 (Suppl 1), S12, 2002.
    * Schaefer BA, Hoon LT, Burke DM, et al: Nutrition and Cancer: Salvestrol Case Studies. J Ortho Med, 2007; 22, 4: 177-182.
    * Ware WR: Nutrition and the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer: Association of Cytochrome P450 CYP1B1 With the Role of Fruit and Fruit Extracts. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2009; 8, 1: 22-28.
    * Ware WR: P450 CYP1B1 mediated fluorescent tumor markers: A potentially useful approach for photodynamic therapy, diagnosis and establishing surgical margins. Medical Hypotheses, 2009; 72: 67-70.
    * Bostwick Laboratories Announces uPM3(TM) Test, First Genetic Test for Prostate Cancer. September 23, 2005. http://www.psa-rising.com/wiredbird/bostwicklabs92303.php
    * Product Monograph. Zoladex 10.8 mg Goserelin/depot. Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone Analog (LHRH Analog). February 24, 2009. http://www.astrazeneca.ca/documents/ProductPortfolio/ZOLADEX%20LA_PM_en.pdf
    * BCCA Protocol Summary for Treatment of Hodgkins Disease with Doxorubicin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine May 1, 2009. http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/NR/rdonlyres/30FDD508-96AC-4555-B682-294EA3635B06/34011/LYABVDProtocol_1May09.pdf

  23. @timferriss – You have previously done a data collection experiment on weight loss, have you considered doing data collection on those who have fought and survived cancer and what they did, how long without it, etc??

  24. Does anyone else have any opinions on Essiac Tea? I did quite a bit of reading today and there are some encouraging stories. Any suggestions on where to buy the herbs? Any additional supplements to take in conjunction to help?

  25. Great article Tim,

    But I am suprised no mention was made of the Italian oncologist Dr. Simoncini and his use of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

    In essence simple carbs (sugar & fried foods, flours etc) make the body acidic which then leads to disease and cancer. Of course these foods the feed the cancer cells.

    Baking soda keeps the body alkaline among many other health benefits.

    Please do further research on this and i recommend a follow up post. I can also provide further years of research on cancer.

    Also look into The Gersom way.
    I am not an authorty on cancer nor am I medical doctor but since my good friend died of stomache cancer at the age of 32 and my cousin died of cancer a few years back I have studied cancer extensively and I think you and your readers will be happy to know what my research has found.

  26. following up on my comment. i noticed a few people posted that they have cancer.

    So here are a few quick tips for you:

    Cancer Cures & Preventions:

    1) Unhealthy foods leave an acidic residue in your body. Fruits and veggies leave an alkaline residue in you body. Eat veggies.
    2) Anti-cancer juice: Carrots & red apples with red cabbage. Red cabbage is higly alkaline.
    3) Peppers: New Mexico has a 50% less cancer rate than any other state. This is possibly due to the high amount of hatch chili that New Mexican eat. Pepper increase your oxygen rate which is said to kill cancer cells
    4) Stop drinking all processed juice and soda. Drink as much green tea as possible.
    5) Lemongrass tea has been shown to cure cancer.
    6) One person stated that he ate a combination of fresh ground garlis with habanero and butter on Ezequiel bread and this cure him of cancer. Its very possible.
    7) Colostrum : I have not had a cold for over a day in the last 3 years since taking this product. Colostrum builds you immune system. Go buy some.
    8) Baking Soda & Molasses tea. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of molasses and drink it 3 times a day.

    You can research any of the above and will see that they have each been shown to cure and or treat cancer.

    My wife has a friend that had cancer and we gave her the above info

  27. Tim, what are your thoughts on “cheat days” in this regard? It’s all a question of numbers, of course, but I’m wondering if it’s a significant factor when the body is going in and out of ketosis.

  28. Thanks Tim,

    I always have a look into the topic cancer, because i think and feel that the “normal” way to handle it is not the right one. Thanks for the informations in the comments that food is the healing we need.

    I found Dr. Simoncini who heals cancer with baking soda (highly alkalic)



    Interessting is the he lost his “Dr. Status” with his therapy. So he must be on the right way.


  29. I had an interesting experience after lunch today. I have never had such a low 2hr bg reading. I had a lunch of tuna, rice and about 2T of coconut oil mayonnaise. My 2 hr reading was70!!! I didn’t feel well and I thought maybe my bg was high so you can imagine my surprise. Anyway, I googled coconut oil and diabetes and found lots of info on coconut oil lowering bg. I will continue to experiment.

  30. I’ve been looking into AMP kinase and other key metabolic molecules and pathways. Activating AMPK does appear to be good in the battle against cancer as it moves the cellular metabolism towards fatty acid oxidation and away from glucose as a fuel source which is required for the Warburg effect.

    I did notice recently a potential double-edged sword effect of AMPK in the article “AMPK regulates NADPH homeostasis to promote tumour cell survival during energy stress” (Nature 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3607316/ Increasing NADPH allows the cell to combat more oxidative stress, which is particularly high in cancer cells due to their deranged metabolism.

    An anti-cancer effect of activating AMPK is increasing the NAD+/NADH ratio which improves oxidative phosphorylation. One journal article on this topic is “Mitochondrial complex I activity and NAD+/NADH balance regulate breast cancer progression” (J Clin Invest. 2013) http://www.jci.org/articles/view/64264

    I’ve posted at http://danielcampagnoli.com/a-new-year-new-insights some more details on the interplay between AMPK, NAD+/NADH and NADP/NADPH.

  31. Peter Attia is a quack.

    Gary Taubes is a Quack

    Anyone sighting these people has not done his research on the subject. not even remotely.

  32. This is a great source of information not only to those who have cancer but to all people as well. Living in a modern world where everything is done fast, seems makes our body lives and be prone to sickness faster. This is an eye opener. Thank you!

  33. What can I say but “thank you!” for sharing all the learnings you’ve acquired about cancer. I’m passing these on to a special friend who happens to be in such a sad state. As well to some younger friends for whom the adoption of these data will help keep the big C away.

  34. Really interesting stuff, I’ve heard about this for a while but it doesn’t seem to get the research attention it deserves. Does anyone know how/where to get involved in research or jobs in this area? I’m finishing up my PharmD and would really like get involved.

  35. As a layman I found the above to be rather heavy reading, but what I understood I found to be in llne with my own research for the most part.
    What I might add however suggests a much easier aid to prevent and also to eliminate Cancer, and that is the use of Bicarbonate of Soda taken in water to which has been added Molasses. When taken in by the cancer cells the soda turns into arsenic when in Cancerous cells but not in normal cells. Sadly, I doubt you will find it easy to sell others on your method simply because the Medical Association is determined to undermine all attempts to destroy such a lucrative practise into which they have sunk millions of dollars.

  36. As a follow up, yes believe it or not, but baking soda may indeed be the cure to cancer.

    Baking soda will work as a prevention if not cure for cancer along with a proper/healthy diet (Slow Carb). Google this topic and you will find some facinarting research.

    Kudos to the oncologist Dr. Simoncini.

    Tim you need to interview this guy.

  37. Gerson therapy includes Calorie restriction, aPlant based diet, wheat grass juice because of a form of cyanide that is activated in the presence od cancerous tissue…coffee enimas because the hemroidal artery has a direct route to the liver without too much metabolization and caffiene is absorbed causing a blood pufifier to be released…
    RICK SIMPSON? Of N.O.R.M.L. Claims to have cured cancer using an essential oil derived from high potency indica.
    Tumeric, spice used often in indian cuisine.

  38. Peter,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post and to you Tim for featuring it on the blog. Just a simple thank you is all.

    With gratitude,


  39. Natural remedies are the best way to treat cancer. Garlic is very good and then plenty of fruits and vegetables. These natural remedies are not a secret just as how to kill cancer is not a secret to doctors.

  40. As always, Tim delivers excellent and relevant content. Thanks for sharing. Have you done any personal research on ‘Fucoidan’, and its cancer-fighting properties? If you can look past the MLM product that swears by it (I won’t mention their name), it seems pretty promising and I expect it to be the next break-out superfood.

  41. Tim,
    How does the cheat day in the Slow Carb Diet fit into keeping glucose low?
    Using the SCD I have had success in losing 17 pounds (only 85 more to go!) in the past 9 weeks which is very encouraging to me.
    I have tried every diet imaginable since I was 11 years old and have always been 50 to100 pounds overweight.
    As a postmenopausal woman with a family history of breast and stomach cancer, I am desperate to lose weight and to avoid cancer.
    Is the cheat day dangerous? It has been so helpful in keeping me going.
    Thank you for your work.

  42. Extremely interesting post. Thank you so much.
    I’m a scientist even if my PhD is in Law. I do believe in hard science and the added value of drugs & lab research. People believing in conspiracy theories are spending alot of negative energy on something that is not worth it…

    Still, therapies based on nature’s power have for me a sound scientific base.

    It would be nice if, with all necessary disclaimers, at the end of your post you added a list of natural things that are cited in the comments and you consider as having some anticancer potential.

    Once again thank you so much.

  43. Article is very aprciating, how cause cancer nd how it cure nd what is mechanism behind cancer,? Tim wht factor generally influenced the cardiac tumor kind of cancer, does it is treatable in earlier when it diagnosed.?