Metabolic therapy may hold the key to one of man's greatest challenges

Right now, on a 53-acre plot of land outside Austin, Texas, the nonprofit KetoPet Sanctuary (KPS) is doing something incredible. It isn’t your typical canine rescue facility. KPS goes out of its way to rescue dogs with incurable, terminal cancer from kill shelters. These are animals that the general public has all but left for dead. None of the dogs at the shelter have cancer induced and they’re not performing mad scientist research. They’re not interested in providing hospice-like treatment for terminal dogs either – of course they care for and love the animals, but instead of writing off the canine companions to their fate, KPS fights back by providing groundbreaking cancer treatment – the very same treatment and approach given to humans. And here’s the craziest part, it’s a fight they’re winning.

How is it that in the billions-of-dollars-a-year spending frenzy that is cancer research, a small group of animal lovers, veterinary professionals and scientists are able to do what more well funded researchers can’t? KPS co-founder Ron Penna explains, “There’s no drug at the end of this rainbow. There’s no proprietary molecule that will solve the problem. As a result, there’s no one putting any money into researching this approach. Even though it’s the most powerful weapon on the cancer scene, there is no economic driver to incentivize investment into researching it. That’s what we’ve been doing – using our own money to test the idea and see if it’s really as powerful as we thought. We’ve been quietly validating just how powerful this approach is using our own funds and now we’re ready to get help from other people to continue furthering the knowledge of how best to apply it.”

Penna speaks to the type of research being done, “It’s a diet that is halting and reversing cancer – because only nutrition works on the many, many levels required to make the reversals to metabolism required to create an environment where cancer can’t take hold. We don’t use nutrition as our main tool against cancer because we have some sort of ideological leaning towards food as medicine but rather because the nutritional protocol we use is more powerful than any drug currently available.”

The key to the diet Penna speaks of is something that most Americans used to be told to avoid – fat. The idea is to attack the only fuel source cancer cells can really use – glucose. In 1926, Nobel Prize Winning scientist Otto Warburg developed the Warburg Theory of Cancer, which basically says that cancer and tumor growth are enabled by feeding on glucose through a process called glycolysis. The hypothesis theorizes that starving the cancer cells should stop metastasis (tumor growth). And now it looks like the theory might just be true. So far the team at KPS has successfully stunted the spread of cancer in dozens of canines and completely reversed it in many others. They have acquired their own state of the art diagnostic equipment such as PET/CT imaging which is expensive and normally reserved only for humans. It’s the gold standard in cancer diagnosis and a major tool used by the KPS staff. By using a ketogenic diet, they’re giving man’s best friend a fighting chance.

So what exactly is a ketogenic diet? It’s a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet that forces the body to burn fats instead of carbs for energy. It’s a diet that’s been used successfully in the past by endurance athletes, epileptics and those looking to lose weight. This process forces the body to produce ketones. The body only produces ketones when glucose isn’t readily available. Healthy cells in the body are very effective at converting ketones into energy, so the team at KPS is taking a two-pronged approach; starve and weaken the cancer cells, feed and empower the healthy cells. And eliminating sugar isn’t the issue – it’s eliminating anything that can potentially turn into glucose. That means all carbohydrate sources other than fibrous vegetables along with controlling protein intake, which can also convert to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.

“At KPS we feed the dogs a very specific ketogenic diet and continually check their levels of blood glucose and ketones to make sure we are getting the effect we are looking for. It’s not a diet that requires faith – you can validate it with science.” Penna says. The KPS team is emboldened by the results they’re seeing and every dog they cure fuels their passion for more positive outcomes. “Many of the dogs who were given death sentences months ago are walking around healthy and happy. These are dogs with supposedly incurable cancers like hemangiosarcoma, as well other cancers like lymphoma and mammary carcinoma.”

Dr. Q, one of the original members who helped get KPS started, glows when speaking about their first successful treatment, “Cali is one of our earliest success stories.  She was a 4.5 year old vizsla whose cancer was discovered during a pregnancy ultrasound.” Instead of a litter of puppies, Cali was pregnant with one pup and one massive tumor. She was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma – an aggressive and quickly metastasizing cancer. It’s considered incurable with a mortality rate close to 100%. Chemotherapy is not recommended because the cancer doesn’t respond to it. Knowing there was little time to act, Dr. Q and his team started her on a 120 day program. “By the end of the 120 days the scans revealed that Cali had no discernable evidence of any cancer. She is cancer free to this day and it’s been over a year since her initial therapy.” Ron and his wife Shannan have adopted Cali in order to give her a loving home and also to monitor her over the coming years. They’re optimistic that her cancer will never return as all readings indicate her metabolism has returned to a pre-cancerous state. There are several examples of other dogs who have literally been given a new life thanks to the KPS’s efforts. Trooper, a boxer, has been free of a rare type of blood cancer since November, 2015 and Blazer, a Staffordshire mix has been devoid of mast cell cancer for over eight months.

The human-level tools like the PET/CT imaging equipment allow Penna’s team to have a comprehensive picture of the dogs’ state while providing an opportunity to gauge how well the treatment works and when to best make adjustments.

Ron is eager to point out that the dogs who completed the program successfully, “Will probably never have cancer again. A major issue in cancer treatment is in making sure the cancer never returns. That’s something standard of care treatments aren’t good at doing and we think it may be one of this particular protocol’s greatest strengths.” To further solidify their research the team freezes tissue samples from the dogs for future research so others can assess the groundbreaking results for themselves.

That doesn’t mean that traditional treatments like radiation go out the door. Penna is quick to point out, “While mostly using a nutritional protocol, we also use chemotherapy, radiation and surgery when necessary as we believe these treatment methods have their place in our program.”

What do the incredible results from the KetoPet Sanctuary mean for the future of the program and the future of cancer research? The CDC reported cancer is the #2 killer of Americans, with over 580,000 deaths in 2013 alone. Instead of letting the weight of that number get the team down, KPS sees it as a call to action. “We are dedicated to continuing and improving our program by finding answers to the most difficult problems in the sphere of modern health and wellness in both dogs and humans. We welcome any help, ideas and ways anyone might be able to assist us and we’re ready for individuals and institutions to collaborate with us.”

With an average of $30 billion in cancer research funding since 2011 and still no cure in sight, the small, dedicated team in Texas is paving the way for new approaches and out-of-the-box thinking about one of the world’s deadliest diseases. If you want to get involved with their groundbreaking research, the team at KPS would love to have your help. Visit their website here to learn more about their mission and help spread the word.

KetoPet Sanctuary from Quest Nutrition on Vimeo.

Via Paul Raybould