Low-protein diet in cancer: ready for prime time?

Article metrics

Diet has a recognized influence on cancer development and progression. However, the effect of diet modifications on the immune system remains elusive. Rubio-Patiño and colleagues provide evidence that a low-protein diet enhances the anticancer immune response in tumour-bearing mice, and highlight the potential of this diet intervention in patients with cancer.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Potential effects of different levels of dietary protein restriction.


  1. 1.

    Fontana, L., Weiss, E. P., Villareal, D. T., Klein, S. & Holloszy, J. O. Long-term effects of calorie or protein restriction on serum IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 concentration in humans. Aging Cell 7, 681–687 (2008).

  2. 2.

    Wilson, K. M., Giovannucci, E. L. & Mucci, L. A. Lifestyle and dietary factors in the prevention of lethal prostate cancer. Asian J. Androl. 14, 365–374 (2012).

  3. 3.

    Chen, W. et al. Macrophage-induced tumor angiogenesis is regulated by the TSC2–mTOR pathway. Cancer Res. 72, 1363–1372 (2012).

  4. 4.

    Augustsson, K. et al. A prospective study of intake of fish and marine fatty acids and prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 12, 64–67 (2003).

  5. 5.

    Fontana, L. & Partridge, L. Promoting health and longevity through diet: from model organisms to humans. Cell 161, 106–118 (2015).

  6. 6.

    Lee, W. J. & Hase, K. Gut microbiota-generated metabolites in animal health and disease. Nat. Chem. Biol. 10, 416–424 (2014).

  7. 7.

    Rubio-Patino, C. et al. Low-protein diet induces IRE1α-dependent anticancer immunosurveillance. Cell Metab. 27, 828–842.e7 (2018).

  8. 8.

    Fontana, L. et al. Dietary protein restriction inhibits tumor growth in human xenograft models. Oncotarget 4, 2451–2461 (2013).

  9. 9.

    Pietrocola, F. et al. Caloric restriction mimetics enhance anticancer immunosurveillance. Cancer Cell 30, 147–160 (2016).

  10. 10.

    Di Biase, S. et al. Fasting-mimicking diet reduces HO-1 to promote T cell-mediated tumor cytotoxicity. Cancer Cell 30, 136–146 (2016).

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Roberto Pili or Luigi Fontana.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pili, R., Fontana, L. Low-protein diet in cancer: ready for prime time?. Nat Rev Endocrinol 14, 384–386 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41574-018-0028-y

Download citation