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Mediterranean diet improves immunotherapy response rates in melanoma patients

by Vaishali Sharma
Mediterranean diet

According to a new study, a Mediterranean diet heavy in fibre, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyphenols is associated with higher immunotherapy response rates and progression-free survival in patients with advanced melanoma.

Experts believe that nutrition will play a significant part in the effectiveness of immunotherapy, and trials are being broadened to explore outcomes for other tumour types, including gut malignancies.

A Mediterranean diet, containing mono-and polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts and fish, polyphenols and fibre from vegetables, fruit, and wholegrains, was significantly associated with an improved response to immunotherapy drugs called Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICIs). ICIs, which have been highly successful in treating melanoma, work by blocking immune system checkpoints, which then force the body’s own T-cells to attack cancers.

The new multi-centre study by researchers from the UK and the Netherlands, recorded the dietary intake of 91 patients with advanced melanoma, who were treated with ICI drugs and monitored their progress with regular radiographic response check-ups.

As well as having a significant association with overall response rate, a Mediterranean diet was significantly associated with progression-free survival at 12 months.

Laura Bolte, author of the study and PhD candidate under supervision of Prof. Rinse Weersma from the University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands, commented, “ICI has helped to revolutionise the treatment of different types of advanced cancers. Our study underlines the importance of dietary assessment in cancer patients starting ICI treatment and supports a role for dietary strategies to improve patient outcomes and survival.”

The study also found that eating wholegrains and legumes reduced the likelihood of developing drug induced immune-related side effects, such as colitis. In contrast, red and processed meat was associated with a higher probability of immune-related side effects.

“The relationship of ICI response with diet and the gut microbiome opens a promising and exciting future to enhance treatment responses. Clinical trials investigating the effect of a high fibre diet, ketogenic diet and supplementation of omega-3 are underway. Since ICI therapy is being expanded to various tumour types, including digestive cancers, these studies could unlock treatment benefits for a large group of cancer patients in the future,” added Laura Bolte.

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