Public Release: 

Researchers develop novel ketone supplements to enhance non-toxic cancer therapy

The mouse model study combined a ketogenic diet and supplements with hyperbaric oxygen therapy

University of South Florida (USF Health)


IMAGE: Principal investigator Dominic D'Agostino, Ph.D., and research associate Angela Poff, Ph.D., measure tumor growth in the mice receiving the investigational treatment in the University of South Florida Morsani College of... view more

Credit: Courtesy od the University of South Florida

Tampa, Fla., June 10 -- A team of researchers from the Hyperbaric Biomedical Research Laboratory at the University of South Florida (USF) doubled survival time in an aggressive metastatic cancer model using a novel combination of non-toxic dietary and hyperbaric oxygen therapies.

The study, 'Non-toxic metabolic management of metastatic cancer in VM mice: novel combination of ketogenic diet, ketone supplementation, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy,' was published online today in PLOS ONE. The article can be found at

Led by principal investigator Dominic D'Agostino, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the published research shows the beneficial effects of using ketone supplements in conjunction with a non-toxic therapeutic regimen developed previously by the team. Ketones are produced when the body begins burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.

The research group previously published a study in PLOS ONE demonstrating the anti-cancer effects of therapeutic ketosis induced by the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (KD) combined with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which involves breathing high-pressure oxygen. Inducing therapeutic ketosis solely with the ketogenic diet can be difficult, however, so the USF researchers created novel metabolic agents that induce ketosis without dietary restriction. These ketone supplements slowed cancer growth on their own, and further enhanced the combined therapeutic effects of KD and HBOT.

In the recent USF study, mice with advanced metastatic cancer were fed either a standard high-carbohydrate diet or a carbohydrate-restricted ketogenic diet with ketone supplements and HBOT. Therapeutic ketosis causes the body to shift from using glucose to fatty acids and ketones bodies for energy.

Normal healthy cells readily adapt to using ketone bodies for fuel, but most cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility. Solid tumors also have areas of low oxygen, which promote tumor growth and metastatic spread. HBOT involves breathing 100 percent oxygen at elevated barometric pressure, saturating the tumors with oxygen. When administered properly, both ketosis and HBOT are non-toxic and may even protect healthy tissues while simultaneously damaging cancer cells.

Animals receiving the combination of KD, ketone supplements, and HBOT lived 103 percent longer than mice fed a standard high-carbohydrate diet. The researchers suggest that their study demonstrates the potential of these non-toxic therapies to contribute to current cancer treatment regimens and significantly improve the outcome of patients with advanced metastatic cancer.

Researchers at USF and elsewhere are investigating the potential benefits of the physiological state of therapeutic ketosis for several major diseases. The USF team believes these novel ketone supplements may be effective in other disorders besides cancer and is conducting ongoing studies to test their potential use in wound healing, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, glucose transporter type 1 (GLUT1) deficiency syndrome, and exercise performance.


The cancer study, funded by a charitable donation from Scivation Inc., was inspired by the research of Professor Thomas Seyfried of Boston College. Dr. Seyfried has advanced the theory that cancer is a metabolic disease, leading to the development of new strategies to treat and prevent cancer. The USF researchers are currently collaborating with other scientists to explore options for establishing human clinical trials.

USF Health's mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the USF Physician's Group. The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. For more information, visit

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