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Carcinogenesis. 1999 Oct;20(10):1979-83.

Effect of fasting/refeeding on the incidence of chemically induced hepatocellular carcinoma in the rat.

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Istituto di Patologia Sperimentale, Università di Cagliari and Ospedale Oncologico 'A. Businco', ASL 8, Cagliari, Italy.


Caloric restriction has been associated with a delay in the development of both spontaneous and induced neoplasia. In contrast, cycles of fasting/refeeding were shown by us and others to enhance the incidence of early lesions during chemical carcinogenesis in rat liver. The present, long-term study was undertaken to establish whether such a diffential effect would also extend to the later phases of cancer development, until the overt appearance of neoplasia. Male Fischer 344 rats were initiated with a single dose of diethylnitrosamine (DENA, 200 mg/kg i.p.) and starting 1 week later they were either exposed to three cycles of fasting (3 days) followed by refeeding (11 days) or were fed continuously. Seven weeks after DENA administration the rats were exposed to the resistant hepatocyte model of the liver tumor promotion protocol. All animals were killed 1 year after initiation. Incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma was 2-fold higher in the fasted/refed group compared with the controls (72 versus 36%). In addition, cancers were also larger and of higher histological grade in the former group, with one animal showing metastases to the lungs, while no metastases developed in control animals. Fasting caused a decrease in total liver DNA (from 25.2 +/- 1.1 to 16.5 +/- 1.1 mg after 3 days) which was associated with a decrease in hepatocyte labeling index and mitotic activity and high levels of single cell death (apoptosis). In contrast, a sharp increase in hepatocyte proliferation was observed on day 2 of refeeding and this was more pronounced in glutathione S-transferase 7-7 positive foci compared with surrounding liver (10.2 +/- 2.3 versus 4.6 +/- 0.8%). Such a proliferative wave was associated with a sharp decline in the incidence of cell death. It is concluded that fasting/refeeding performed early after initiation accelerates the development of chemically induced hepatocellular carcinoma in the rat.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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