Intermittent Dawn-to-Sunset Fasting and Anticancer Serum Proteome

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In a small study published in the Journal of Proteomics, Ayse Leyla Mindikoglu, MD, MPH, and colleagues found that dawn-to-sunset fasting was associated with proteins that were protective against cancer as well as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and some neurologic disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.  

“What this means is that we showed an increase in the levels of specific proteins that are downregulated in several cancers and other disorders,” said Dr. Mindikoglu, Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. 

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Downregulation is the process by which a cell decreases the quantity of its cellular component—a tumor suppression protein or gene would be downregulated in someone with cancer, allowing for the proliferation of cancer cells. In the case of the current study, researchers found that those types of proteins are actually at increased levels after dawn-to-sunset fasting.  

“We are finding protein signatures that could have protective properties against a number of illnesses and, specifically, cancers,” said Dr. Mindikoglu.

Study Details

Researchers followed 14 people (mean age = 32 years) participating in Ramadan fasting—30 consecutive days of no eating or drinking from dawn to sunset, which totaled fasting for more than 14 hours each day. Outside of that time, there were no calorie or diet restrictions. Participants ate as much or as little as they needed at the transition zones of the day (ie, they began fasting after having breakfast before dawn and ended fasting with dinner at sunset). Having breakfast before dawn protected participants against dangerous increases in blood pressure and sugar levels that could have occurred if breakfast was skipped or delayed to late morning hours. 

Blood samples were taken before fasting began, at the end of the fourth week of 30-day fasting, and 1 week after fasting ended. Untargeted proteomic profiling was conducted on those samples by the Mass Spectrometry Proteomics Core at Baylor College of Medicine. 


Thirty-day intermittent fasting was found to be associated with an anticancer serum proteomic signature, upregulated key regulatory proteins of glucose and lipid metabolism, circadian clock, DNA repair, cytoskeleton remodeling, immune system, and cognitive function. Fasting also resulted in a serum proteome protective against cancer, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, Alzheimer's disease, and several neuropsychiatric disorders. 

“We believe fasting of this type has these results because it is resetting the circadian clock,” explained Dr. Mindikoglu.

Past studies in mice have shown that disrupting the circadian clock rhythm is associated with cancer and metabolic syndrome. However, time-restricted feeding was shown to reset the disrupted clock rhythm and, in turn, optimize the functioning of certain regulatory proteins.  

“Our study looked at a small number of people during a set time frame, so lasting effects of these results are not yet known. There are also other questions about how often someone fasts or how diet might affect the findings,” said Dr. Mindikoglu. “Despite that, our results, even at this stage, are significant. It could potentially have implications on a number of debilitating diseases and disorders, and this shows us that we are heading in the right direction as we continue our research.” 

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.