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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Can ketogenic diet cure cancer?

(Fatty pork with curry veggies in butter and 'matoes)
There is very little data but what is available, so far is quite encouraging. Strangely enough most medical research institutions do not seem to think so or there would be a mad rush to study it on thousands of patients.


"Effects of a ketogenic diet on tumor metabolism and nutritional status in pediatric oncology patients: two case reports." Nebeling LC, Miraldi F, Shurin SB, Lerner E.

"Targeting energy metabolism in brain cancer: review and hypothesis", Thomas N Seyfried and Purna Mukherjee, Nutrition & Metabolism 2005,2:30

"Can a High-Fat Diet Beat Cancer?"
By Richard Friebe Monday, Sep. 17, 2007

And finally a paper from my favored scientific publisher specializing in printing fake peer-review journals:

"Tumor growth in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex on the ketogenic diet" Catherine J. Chu-Shore, Elizabeth A. Thiele

Three out of five patients, all children, had progression of a known tumor or tumors or the development of a new tumor while on the ketogenic diet. Conclusion: In this limited case series of five TSC patients, the ketogenic diet did not induce tumor regression or suppress the growth of TSC-related tumors.

I am curious, if they emphasize that it didn't help the 3 out of 5, should we interpret it as stating that it did help the other 2 out of 5? (I do not have the access to the full paper to check it).


Footnote (for an oncologist with a PhD's)

No, it does not work (if it works) by starving a cancer through lowering serum glucose level down to zero. Yes it would of course have killed a patient together with a tumor.

What the ketogenic diet does do is it totally alters a body's predominant metabolic mode shifting it from glucose to ketone bodies and lipids. One side effect of ketogenic diets is the enhancement of the immune system (we all heard of course, I presume of the standard pre-penicillin therapy against TB...)

Another effect is reduction of glucose uptake by the healthy cells that are not yet cancerous and the protective effect resulting from much lower insulin production (and insulin tissue uptake) on the true ketogenic diet versus a low fat high carbohydrate diet. Another and probably even more important effects are those that we do not yet fully understand due to a curious lack of curiosity or competence of some oncologists with the PhD who do not seem to want to pursue any investigation that might actually work...

Based on my mom's experience, the best survival strategy is to listen carefully to the oncologists, write thoroughly down everything they have to say - and do the opposite! It has worked well for my mom since her close encounter with the disease in 1998 when she refused a friendly "slash-burn-and-poison" therapy offer from her local hospital. Eleven years later, so far so good...

Be free and prosper,

------ (added later) ----

More references (thanks Cynthia):
"Acetoacetate reduces growth and ATP concentration in cancer cell lines which over-express uncoupling protein 2."
Fine EJ, Miller A, Quadros EV, Sequeira JM, Feinman RD.

CONCLUSION: Seven human cancer cell lines grown in glucose plus acetoacetate medium showed tightly coupled reduction of growth and ATP concentration. The findings were not observed in control fibroblasts. The observed over-expression of UCP2 in cancer lines, but not in controls, provides a plausible molecular mechanism by which acetoacetate spares normal cells but suppresses growth in cancer lines. The results bear on the hypothesized potential for ketogenic diets as therapeutic strategies.


Added 12-Nov-2009


Read Peter's post: Methylglyoxal on Atkins...

The story can be compressed into two titles:

Ketosis leads to increased methylglyoxal production on the Atkins diet.

A brief critical overview of the biological effects of methylglyoxal and further evaluation of a methylglyoxal-based anticancer formulation in treating cancer patients.


Added 15/04/2012
Carbohydrates and the Risk of Breast Cancer among Mexican Women

Starch Intake May Influence Risk for Breast Cancer Recurrence, Jennifer A. Emond, M.S.
Abstract Number: P3-09-01, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, 2011, Title: Change in Carbohydrate Intake and Breast Cancer Prognosis.

Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer?
Rainer J Klement and Ulrike Kämmerer



Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Thought you might find this paper interesting, talking about the metabolism that promotes tumorigenesis:

There have been good results with testing low carb diets in prostate cancer I know, but different cancers have different mutations and genetic characteristics. The ability to extract energy under hypoxic or anoxic conditions is an advantage for cancer cells living in necrotic tumors or other non-optimal environments. The upregulated glucose metabolism would be an advantage for them, assuming there was plenty of glucose available.


Stan Bleszynski said...

Hi Cynthia,

Thanks for the link. What is also interesting is that the cancer cells show in addition to up-regulated glucose, an upregulated glutamine metabolism with discarding of the excess nitrogen (in ammonia). There is some very strange evolutionary adaptation going on towards some hypothetical primordial environment that is high in glucose and aminoacids, while at the same time poor in oxygen and lipids.

Contrary to most scientists, I find it more strange not that there are so many different types of cancer but that they all share so many common features. That sort of defies the theory of random faults and random mutations.


Drs. Cynthia and David said...

This one is interesting too (another Feinman paper):

They are studying how acetoacetate spares normal cells but suppresses growth in cancer lines. So it's not just about sugar either.


Stan Bleszynski said...

Re: acetoacetate

That is one of the end product of the lipid metabolic chain, isn't it? May be that't what works against cancer under a ketogenic diet?

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Yes, it's a ketone body (along with acetone and beta-hydroxybutyrate). The paper talks about using acetoacetate to inhibit glycolysis in cancers exhibiting high GLUT1 (glucose transporter) and UCP (uncoupling protein) in in vitro experiments with cancer cells. So these are not normal cells, and of course there are the usual caveats. Also, this was a basic biochemistry study to accompany their clinical trial - see here http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00444054 I'm looking forward to seeing their results, though I don't know if their intervention is really long enough.


Bris said...

Immunogenic fevers, as pioneered by Dr William Colley, only seem to be effective when combined with starvation. Starvation of course induces ketosis.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Seems to be the case. High fever naturally discourages one from eating, but consuming some fat may enhance the state of ketosis. There is only some very sparce anecdotal evidence supporting high fever+ketosis theory, it but I think it is very encouraging so far.

For example:


I saw also an article by a Keynian doctor researching the cases of spontaneous self-healing of some of the least curable cancers, and comming to the same conclusion.

Namely, the self-healed cancer patients exhibited in his study the following common pattern:

1) they had some of their own body fat (not completely emaciated) and the nature of their cancer would prevent or make it difficult to eat

2) cancer remission often coincided with a bout of some infectious disease accompanied by a high fever.

I wonder what would be the safest way of inducing a short lasting high fever with little or no side effects and easy to control?

Robert Rister said...

I've just found your very interesting blog, and please forgive me if I am asking questions that have already been asked or making points that you've already covered. As regards the fever issue, isn't the point to heat the tumor? It seems to me that the safest method would generate heat in the tumor itself. Also, is the issue "starvation" or is it carbohydrate deprivation?

Stan Bleszynski said...


From what little I know about onkology, tumor destruction by local heating or burning is possible but not as effective as freezing. When you freeze tumor tissue it seems to regrow slower and the body is better able to deal with the leftovers. That seems to be well known among skin doctors who prefer to freeze skin polyps, warts etc rather than burn them.

I suspect that fever+ketones work against cancer by mobilizing our immune system rather than acting upon the tumor tissue directly.

One cannot simply deprive tumor tissue of glucose because a minimal blood level of 60mg/dl is absolutely required (normal is 100), thus attempt at starving the tumor would end up killing both the tumor and the patient.


Robert Rister said...

Hi, Stan. Just a couple of comments.

I'm a diabetic myself. A blood sugar level of 60 mg/dl isn't fatal. You can drive, shoot baskets, walk uphill, and play tiddleywinks when your blood sugar is 60 mg/dl. There is a point diabetics become non-functional because their sugars are too low, but that's usually below 30 mg/dl. A relative of mine recently was stopped for driving erratically--with a blood sugar of 18 mg/dl. Just lowering blood sugar to 60 won't kill anyone. And the actual "death event" in hypoglycemia has to do with imbalances of potassium and magnesium because cells don't have the energy to "pump" them where they need to go.

I'm not sure where you got that 60 mg/dl figure. What kills a cancer cell in a test tube and what kills a cancer cell in the human body can be entirely different things. But the point of the low carb diets for cancer is not generating ketones but favoring aerobic respiration over anaerobic respiration.

For a variety of reasons, cells that become cancerous start burning glucose without oxygen for their primary fuel source. They still can burn glucose with oxygen, but some enzymatic disturbances start respiration in the cytosol, outside the mitochondria, where oxygen isn't used. This process generates free radicals where they can't be quenched (aerobic respiration also makes free radicals but they can be neutralized with antioxidants in the mitochondria). These free radicals in turn damage the "patrol" genes like p53 that keep the cell from acting like a cancer cell. And this "fermentative" process uses 19 times as much glucose as aerobic respiration.

The reason a low-carb diet helps in cancer is that cancer cells doesn't have to do with ketone bodies. It's due to the fact that, to get all that extra glucose, cancer cells rely on enzymes that act in place of insulin, and these enzymes only work when there is amarginally higher than normal glucose concentration in the blood. It isn't necessary to go all Atkins-y. It's only necessary to restrict carbohydrate, not to eliminate it.

There are some kinds of cancer, such as some of the brain cancers, where ketogenic (even less carb than the first two weeks of Atkins) diets work, but that's because, once again, cancerous brain cells can't adapt to ketones and healthy brain cells can.

As for hyperthemic treatments, I believe they are "heating," not "burning." You are very right that it's big burden on the body to get rid of the dead cancerous mass.

What I'm finding out about cancer is that it's very hard to find 100% correct answers. But all of us who've had it muddle forward.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Hi Robert,

Thank you for your very interesting comments and for your corrections. I appreciate a good discussion. 8-:)

I got 60mg/dl safety limit from the oral glucose tolerance test rules which prescribe stopping it whenever patient's glucose drops below that threshold, since that is regarded as potentially dangerous (of passing out). Though you are most likely correct that it does not need to be fatal by itself, unless a patients drives a car.

I heard that diabetic patients tend to develop an unusually deep tolerance for hypoglycemia but 18mg/dl is something I haven't heard yet, That is interesting. I did read reports of diabetic patients able to withstand as low as 30mg/dl sometimes.

One issue with hypoglycemia is that glucose is the only exclusive fuel for the red blood cells (and exclusively anaerobically!). I do not know what is the exact mechanism of fatality from ultra low hypoglycemia but it may have something to do with the starvation of the erythrocytes. I wonder if starving cancer through sustained mild hypoglycemia has even been tried. M. Von Ardenne has developed (and tested) his own protocol along those lines but he used hyperglycemia/hypoglycemia cyclically + heat.

It is true that cancer uses anaerobic metabolism but it also uses or can use aerobic as well, I remember reading a paper on the topic. That also seems to differ between various types of cancer.

The reason I was inclined to believe in the ketones-immune system theory is that ketogenic metabolism seems also to improve or cure infectious diseases, bacterial and viral. It is especially effective against viruses such as hepatitis (documented by Dr. Kwasniewski), common cold, flu (my own experience of the last 10 years) and other. There are also some strange anectodal reports of people being cured of bubonic (bacterial) plague by drinking jars of lard etc. So if it is good against foreign pathogens it could also be good against body's own cancer.


Robert Rister said...

I'm enjoying your blog. Thanks for posting all this.

About my relative with the 18 mg/dl blood sugar, she was not exactly lacking for consciousness when the police stopped her. Four patrol cars blocked off her car and she had to get out. She became extremely upset about not being able to get to work, and bit one of the policemen, enough he had to get stitches. When they put her in the ambulance, the dispatcher read (and I'm changing the age) "49-year-old female in route..." She screamed in protest, "My age is 2009! 2009 I tell you! 2009!"

Several rounds of Ativan and four bags of dextrose/saline later, she was her normal, but very embarrassed, self. The police did not file charges.

There's a book coming out in German next month called Die neue Anti-Krebs-Ernährung: Wie Sie das Krebs-Gen stoppen that will talk a whole lot on ketogenic diet for cancer. After I get a copy, I may get back in touch. Thanks again for doing this blog.


My WBC dropped 11,000 when I began eating a ketogenic diet (I have CLL - never been treated). The oncologist, rather than suggesting the regular 6 month follow-up said, "See you in a year." I was mighty pleased.

Sparky480 said...
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Sparky480 said...

I've ordered a book called 'How To Stop Cancer' by J Dean. The protocol mentioned in the book describes how cancer can still be fed even on a strict ketogenic diet by converting protein into glucose. To get around this the book talks about combining a good antidiabetic medication such as Glucovance with the ketogenic diet to prevent the body from generating extra glucose while regulating blood sugar levels. The cancer cells will get desperate enough to consume the 2-deoxy-D-glucose which in turn destroys the cancer cells abilty to feed themselves. The protocol also calls for a very strict ketogenic diet that require carb intake to under 30 grams a day while keeping the blood sugar levels between 50 and 60 mg/dl.

Has this protocol been tested anywhere? I've found info on the net about ketogenic diets used on brain cancer but what about the entire protocol mentioned (with the antidiabetic meds added)? Would this be effective against other types of cancers besides brain cancer? Would a ketogenic diet be effective against the few types of cancers that can use the aerobic process? ANY info appreciated thanks.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Hi Jamie,

It may help but I doubt if it would be a very effective treatment. Problem with inducing hypoglycemia to starve a cancer is that it is dangerous! A patient may die before his cancer! Normal blood glucose level is 100mg/dl. The level at which one may loose consciousness is 60 (some diabetics develop better tolerance to hypoglycemia, over time, and may withstand even less (I heard anecdotal reports of 30mg/dl!).

There are other problems with inducing hypoglycemia on a ketogenic diet: at very low glucose level, body will start manufacturing glucose out of protein. It may use protein from muscles or organs.

I accidentally refrained from consuming any carbohydrates, in the first few months after I started (1999). My liver would normally produce glucose out of protein (especially from casein - cheese) but this does not seem to be a very efficient process and not well regulated. Hypoglycemia induces adrenal hormones which stimulate neo-glucogenesis in liver, but they also stimulate thyroid. Overactive thyroid caused rapid heart beat. Very unpleasant.


LabDoc said...

I would think a PET-CT do determine if a cancer is glucose dependent would be in order prior to initiating the ketogenic diet.

LabDoc said...

It would seem fitting to have a PET-CT scan to determine if a cancer is glucose dependent prior to initiating a ketogenic diet. However,if it is an incurable cancer the patient would have nothing to lose by attempting a ketogenic diet.

Stan Bleszynski said...


There indeed are glucose dependent and not glucose dependent cancers but the value of ketogenic diets would be more in their capability to boost one's immune system rather than lowering glucose level.

Ketogenic diets normalize - but do not lower glucose level if it is already normal!

Blood glucose level under ketogenic diet is the same (and very stable) as in a healthy young individual on a mixed diet.


PM said...

I like this blog. Very civilised and informative.

If the immune system is stimulated and more cells are produced that is good but they have to recognise tumour as alien. So for effective tumour reduction via immunity etc the cell membrane must change to express warning signals. There may be a threshold thing going or a tolerance thing etc.

Usually 'immune boosters' don't address this.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Hi PM,

Welcome to the blog! I think you are right about the "cell membrane must change to express warning signals", it makes sense. Our immune system must be "primed" or triggered to act. One way is being fully exposed to the contents of the cancerous cells, for example when the cellullar walls of some of the cells break down.

I have been thinking about that mechanism in the context of the surprisingly strong cancer-protective effects of low-dose radiation.


dancilhoney said...

There are many benefits of eating a raw food diet, especially for cancer patients. diet for cancer

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

In January of 2011 I was diagnosed with a non-aggressive form of breast cancer considered still small (on the edge). I scheduled surgery 3 times and cancelled 3 times.
Since that diagnosis I have been doing a variety of natural/alternative solutions including protocel, paw paw cell reg (both of which lower cell voltage), curcumin, etc. The size of my tumor is smaller but not gone completely. Non-aggressive tumors can react more slowly to protocols... so I've tried to be patient.
When cancer cells die it is called lysis or one sees lysed matter through one's urine, feces, nasal passages, etc. I began lysis immediately after Protocel usage.

But in recent months I had been frustrated feeling like my love for complex carbs like organic oatmeal w/ organic fruit and organic vegetarian chili was thwarting my progress. Plus I still had a carbaholic addiction (as coined by Dr. Scott Hannen).

Last weekend I decided to go back on Hannen's Keto Diet. Some years ago I had lost an incredible amount of weight and gotten down to a size 4. THIS WEEK I have had in incredible amount of lysed material in my urine. Basically consuming NO carbs is starving what is left of the cancer. I am greatly encouraged that the small lump will leave completely.

A keto diet is NOT a forever plan. But Hannen gives a plan to resume a more balanced eating plan that doesn't re-addict one to carbs.

For now I am just thrilled to see the lysis increasing by leaps and bounds. This is my story.

Stan Bleszynski said...


While dietary carbohydrates does show a strong correlation to breast cancer as shown in many studies (Mexican, Italian, etc), the low carbohydrate diet does not guarantee to cure it, once a cancer has developed. It is like with smoking and lung cancer - quitting smoking is not a cure either.

To effectively cure an already established cancer, I think something else or something more is required.

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree (unfortunately) because I would like to stop buying the supplements I have been buying for over a year. I have been using Protocel, Paw Paw Cell Reg (considered stronger than graviola), curcumin with bioperine and bromelain. BUT I've seen in this last week of tremendously increased lysed cells in my urine (as spoke about in Protocel literature)that carbs do retard the effectiveness of the protocol (and others I suppose) I have been using. THe long range hope is to effective break the sugar addiction (as discussed by Dr. Scott Hannen) so that a balanced lifestyle can be enjoyed and health maintained. I even felt eating organic oatmeal with raspberries and organic chili (great for health in general) was blocking what my protocol was trying to do. I can't speak to other protocols that encouraged juicing carrots (etc.) to cure cancer. Such protocols are high in carbs and sugars. But the Keto Diet is giving the last few legs of my journey a huge wave of activity.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

From the start of taking Protocel I saw evidence of lysing/lysis (dead cancer cell matter) in my urine. For over a year I have been inspecting the toilet bowl every time I void. The lysing in my urine would vary and not really sure what would cause it to wax or wane. But I read that non-aggressive cancer reacts more slowly to protocols because (so I read) the cells are more like normal cells than more aggressive forms of cancer. The supplements I use do not hurt normal cells. SO I'VE BEEN PATIENT BUT A BIT DISCOURAGED. HOW LONG LORD???

Then I thought to try the Keto Diet again (partly because of my daughter's upcoming wedding) and partly because I felt my carb addiction really getting in the way.

All I can say after one year plus of inspecting the toilet bowl after urinating... what I've seen this week is strong and steady evidence of lysing/lysed cells. I am encouraged.

Stan Bleszynski said...

I wish you success in your therapy. I hope it works. You may also want to check Barry Groves' Cancer Files section on his website.

Lanceman said...

Thank you Stan for this blog. I've recently been
Diagnosed with a grade IV glioblastoma that's diffused. They can't take it out. I've been reading a lot about ketogenic diets and seems like a good way to be proactive on my end. I start radiation and chemo next week. I'm might start the diet this week and then run it by the doc next week. I'll keep you posted on my progress

Anonymous said...

please keep us posted lanceman. hope to hear back from you.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Lanceman, have a look at those 3 papers, in the following document Ketone Neuroprotection

Stan Bleszynski said...

Lanceman, I would also recommend contacting Dr. Jack Kruse, a neurosurgeon. He is using a ketogenic diet and cold thermogenesis to induce metabolic and immunologic changes.

Puddleg said...

Good post.
You might be interested to know that the New Zealand medical soap "Shortland Street" had a storyline a few years ago where cancer patients were on low-carb diets, and a nurse was sneaking in chocolate bars.

Stan Bleszynski said...

This is google blogger as you probably can guess from the name. I use a standard template. If you post a link as a straight text, not a URL, it has a better chance of passing through a spam filter. You web site seems to repeat a typical dietary recommendations that do not work very well except for healthy people. Fat avoidance leads nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stan, love this forum! I have been fighting cancer for 22 yrs. Many different cancers. 5 Surgeries. Refused conventional treatments. Have lived a pretty normal life. A few yrs ago I developed an aggressive, non-hormone receptive, infiltrating, ductal carcinoma in my left breast, which has been traumatized by many x-rays due to a torn shoulder labrum. Every time they cut it out, a secondary tumor is allowed to create blood supply's and flourish, growing quite rapidly. I recently read that primary tumors will keep secondary tumors from creating blood supplies. Then, once the primary is removed, the secondary may develop more rapidly, no surprise there. However, my research has shown that tumors can evolve over 10-20 yrs. Therefore, should we expect to be able to kill them in a short period of time? Are we being unrealistic?
I have been on a strict Keto diet for 10 days now. So far, the tumor has not shrunk. But, it has stopped swelling, burning, and causing the tissue around it to become inflamed. Whatever else it may be able to feed on in the future, I am yet to know. But there is no doubt in my mind that this aggressive tumor loves sugar. Before the Keto diet, if I were to drink alcohol, soda, or an energy drink, my tumor would go crazy! I would end up feeling sick, due to the chemicals that were being kicked into my system from the fermentation of these items by the tumor. No I am not having such episodes.
Although I am staying in the high Ketone levels, as apparent by the dark purple on my ketostix, my blood sugar is still in the 70's, and I fear that I am going to have to become even more strict with my diet. I am naturally a fruit and veggie lover, so this is extremely hard!
This has been my journey, thus far. Blessings to all.

Stan Bleszynski said...

Hi Teresa,

I wish you all the best in your fight against cancer! My mom made a similar decision in similar situations and she lived till age 82, dying 2 years ago, succumbing to it after 12 years through a very short illness, all the while living in good health and no side effects of any kind. She never regretted her decision.

I am very interested in alternative treatments, there are many alternatives worth researching. (Please do NOT take the following text as a recomendation for any particular treatment, only as a recommendation to study and research it further.)

Number of studies point towards application of high fever (or hyperthermia) in conjunction with ketogenic diet. Keto diet alone would not trigger body's immune system to launch an attack against cancer but a condition of high fever might, due to triggering a breakdown of cancerous cells that seems to "prime" the immune system. This technique (of triggering high fever) was called Cooley Toxin, which was used up until 50-ties or 60-ties in the US until it was delegalized.

Another techniques worth looking at, I think, is Peruvian herbal remedy Vilcacora (Cat's Claw).

See also:

- Book "My Dance with Cancer" by Vernon Johnston phkillscancer.com/protocol T

- www.naturalnews.com/z027481_prostate_cancer_baking_soda.html

- www.naturalnews.com/z027481_prostate_cancer_baking_soda.html

- Dr Keith Brewer's:

Please notice that none of the above is actually proven and some may be risky, and if you ever wanted to apply any of the therapy listed here or elsewhere, please always work with an intelligent and experienced medical doctor!

Best regards,

P1 said...

Robert makes the point that "The reason a low-carb diet helps in cancer is that cancer cells doesn't have to do with ketone bodies. It's due to the fact that, to get all that extra glucose, cancer cells rely on enzymes that act in place of insulin, and these enzymes only work when there is a marginally higher than normal glucose concentration in the blood. It isn't necessary to go all Atkins-y. It's only necessary to restrict carbohydrate, not to eliminate it."

Does anyone have a link to any specific information about the exact glucose levels at which tumor growth is compromised?

Is there any peer reviewed research to backup those numbers?

Robert's claims seem extremely specific.

Bruce said...

Interesting links. I have read Cancer as A Metabolic Disease by Seyfried ( a leading lipid researcher) and the "How to Stop cancer" by Deans. According to Seyfried the therapeutic range to treat cancer is glucose is 55-65mg/dL and simultaneously ketones 2-7mM. Without the ketones the hypoglycemia is dangerous. Most body cells (except cancerous and some in the brain) can survive without the glucose ie energy is derived from the ketones. It is interesting to note that when necessary the body can convert protein to glucose and also lipids to glucose, but presumably not at a sufficient level to nourish the cancer.
I find it entirely plausible that a glucose analog such as 2 deoxyglucose will be taken up by starving cancerous cells who cannot metabolise it and it leads to their destruction. This needs to be done in conjunction with ketogenic diet to keep the nourishment of the other cells.
Another interesting reference is Elaine Cantin and her ketogenic diet with which she has treated several illneses in her family including cancer and I think diabetes.