Lung Cancer, Stage 4, Healed with a Ketogenic Diet (Joe Mancaruso)

Cancer is not a collection of unrelated diseases that each need to be treated individually, cancer is one disease—a mitochondrial disease—and diseased mitochondria prefer glucose and glutamine for fuel.  Healthy cells with healthy mitochondria are flexible and can adapt to just about any fuel source, but not cancer cells.  In fact, the majority of cells in our body function best when they burn fat for energy.  Cancer cells are bad at burning fat, because fat burning requires respiration, which requires healthy mitochondria.”  Thomas Seyfried.

Joe Mancaruso heals from stage 4 lung cancer with a ketogenic diet and other therapies.

Joe Mancaruso

In 1985, Joe Mancaruso was diagnosed with testicular cancer. His treatments included surgery which included the removal of lymph nodes followed by 8 rounds of chemotherapy.  28 years later, in May of 2013, he was diagnosed with another cancer.  This time it was non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma) and he was already stage 4 at the time of the diagnosis.  Joe was given only six months to live.

Joe was 55 when he started on the chemotherapy treatments for the lung cancer.  The harsh treatments caused him to have seizures, chemo cough, and a severely weakened immune system, and so he was forced to stop them prematurely.  He says, “after three rounds of Alimta, I decided no more chemo.”

Joe credits the book Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds for providing him with information on using various alternative methods in order to heal from cancer. You can read more about the book with this link.

He then experimented with several healing diets, but finally settled on using the ketogenic diet which is a low-carb/ high-fat diet which he began implementing in February of 2014.   The ketogenic diet basically starves the cancer cells of glucose which they use to fuel their growth and spread. You will find more details and links to testimonials on using the ketogenic diet for cancer at the end of this article.

Joe included the following into his ketogenic healing plan:

  • a variety of supplements
  • exposure to sunshine
  • heat therapy with the use of an Infrared Sauna).
  • Joe was a longtime exercise buff and owned his own fitness club.  The exercises that he used included lifting kettle bells and Jiu Jitsu.  He says, “This will not be the right choice for everyone, but for me at 56 years old, it allows me to train Brazilian Jujitsu four to five times a week, do my kettle bell training and to travel.”

Joe shares the details of healing lung cancer with a ketogenic diet

The Ketogenic Diet

Cancer cells love glucose and need it so badly that if you stop giving it to them they will literally starve to death.  All cells are fueled by glucose, but when you deprive normal cells of glucose they will automatically switch over to using ketone bodies and an alternate fuel source. A defect in cancer cells prevents them from making this conversion so they die.  Dr Dominic D’Agostino explains it like this, “Your normal cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility. So we use the ketogenic diet  to exploit that defect.”  He adds.  “It just absolutely amazes me that medical science is just now finding this out.”

Healing cancer with this diet is a surprise to Dr. D’Agostino.  When he and his team of scientists at the University of South Florida removed carbohydrates from the diets of lab mice, they survived highly aggressive metastatic cancer even better than if treated with chemotherapy.  “We have dramatically increased survival with metabolic therapy. So we think it’s important to get this information out.”  This diet is not just successful with mice in the lab, Dr. D’Agostino has also seen similar results with people.  “I’ve been in correspondence with a number of people, at least a dozen over the last year-and-a-half to two years, and all of them are still alive, despite the odds. So this is very encouraging.”


An example of a ketogenic meal.

The basics of the diet:  A ketogenic diet strictly limits carbohydrates, has a moderate amount of proteins, and a high amount of fat.  It not only helps you feel more satiated with less calories, but it also burns fat- both from your diet and from your own fat stores, therefore it can also help to facilitate weight loss.  The key to a ketogenic diet is to keep your carbs low~ usually as low as 45 grams per day, although some plans like the Cantin Ketogenic Diet will hold you to only 20 grams a day.

Elaine Cantin’s  version of the diet also eliminated common food allergens such as corn, soy, wheat, all dairy products (including butter and cheese), all red meats, genetically modified foods, alcohol, caffeine, and all chemical additives that are commonly found in processed foods, as all of these can promote inflammation within the body.

The ketogenic diet is made up of 75-80% healthy fats, 15-20% healthy proteins, 5-10% non-starchy vegetables.

Eliminate the carbohydrates:  this includes all grains, bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, granola bars, crackers, muffins, baked goods and processed foods; as well as starchy vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash, and corn; all sugars, soft drinks, candies, jams, syrups and desserts; as well as most fruits; and milk products (as lactose= dairy sugar)

Fats- will help you maintain your state of ketosis, where your body is burning fat as its main source of energy.  In addition, your ketogenic meal plan should include about 1 to 2 tbsp of extra fat, such unrefined coconut oil, olive, or avocado oil with your meals. Coconut oil is a good choice because it contains medium-chain triglycerides that promote a ketogenic state.

  • Using fats in the menu– you can cook the vegetables for your morning omelet in coconut oil, drizzle olive or avocado oil over your vegetable side dishes when they are done cooking, and make some homemade salad dressings them as well.
  • Other acceptable fat foods include: avocados, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, hazel nuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, and nut butters (except peanuts).
  • Fats to stay away from include:  “trans” fats, such as shortening or margarine, as well as oils that are hydrogenated and polyunsaturated oils such as corn, soy, canola, grape seed, sunflower and safflower because these oils will oxidize easily making them inflammatory to the body.
Proteins- A ketogenic diet should provide a moderate amount of protein at each of your meals. The best sources of protein are found in non-processed which are still in their natural form. This includes breast of chicken, fish fillet, fresh seafood, and eggs. On the other hand, “processed” meats, like cold cuts and hot dogs are off-limits because often carbohydrates have been added to them as well as harmful additives and preservatives.  Those on a vegetarian diet can turn to organic tofu, nuts (such as almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, hazel nuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, and nut butters); hemp seeds, and Plant Based Protein Shake Mix. The diet recommends Including 4 to 6 oz. of protein at each of your meals.

  • Protein intake: you could have a 2 or 3 egg and vegetable omelet with an avocado for breakfast, 4 oz of chicken breast with non-starchy vegetables that are drizzled with olive oil for lunch, and 4 oz. salmon fillet with a side of non-starchy vegetables that are drizzled with olive oil, and a salad with olive oil dressing at dinner.

Eat non-starchy Vegetables– You can obtain your limited amount of carbohydrates, between 20 and 45 grams a day, by eating a variety of non-starchy vegetables. These are among the most nutrient-dense foods which can provide you with all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber you need, while containing very little in carbohydrate content so they will help you stay in ketosis.  To do this you should eat 1 to 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables at each of your meals.

  • Using non-starchy vegetables in your daily menu: You can eat a vegetable omelet for breakfast, have a big salad of leafy greens topped with grilled chicken for your lunch, and accompany your dinner with a large salad and a side of vegetables.
More on the ketogenic diet-  Some people are hesitant to try the ketogenic diet because they think that high-fat diets are bad for your health. But increasingly doctors are saying that as long as you are eating “natural” fats, this diet is actually good for you. Natural fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and unrefined coconut oil. “Is cholesterol the major cause of heart disease?  Absolutely not.”” says cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra in his book ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will Dr. Sinatra says that the real cause of heart disease is inflammation from eating too many carbohydrates and sugar. “We need to coach and empower our patients about the dangers of sugar,” he said. “Unfortunately, they’re not hearing that. They’re hearing the opposite which is about the dangers of fat. Fat is healthy for you, as long as you avoid trans fats.”  He says that by cutting back on carbohydrates and eating natural fats and proteins, you can improve your heart health and potentially wipe out cancer.

Pie-ChartWhat does the diet look like:

    • Having a 3 day water fast before starting this diet will help you enter ketosis much faster.
    • Count your carbs religiously, and keep them within the ketogenic range of 20-45 grams per day.
    • Eat enough protein containing foods such fish, chicken, or eggs to satisfy yourself. A general measure would be 20% of calories, or about 14 ounces per day on a 2000 calorie plan. However, if you find that you are craving more protein it is fine to add more into your diet.
    • Monitor blood glucose, trying to maintain at 70
    • Monitor blood ketones and try to get them up to 3.6
    • Eat an abundance of non-starchy vegetables such as:  Amarath, Artichokes, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoots, Bean Sprouts, Beans (Green), Beet Greens, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Daikon, Eggplant, Fennel, Greens (some include Collard, Kale, Mustard, Turnip, Chicory, Endive, Escarole, Romaine, Spinach, Arugula, Radicchio, and Watercress), Hearts of palm, Jicama, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mushrooms, Okra, Onions, Pea pods, Peppers, Radishes, Rutabaga, Sprouts, Sugar Snap Peas, Swiss Chard, Tomato, Turnips, Water Chestnuts, and Zucchini.
    • Lemons, limes, or a very small amount of berries, or other low carb fruit might fit into your meal plan. Keep in mind that 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries has 3.4 grams of net carbs, 1/2 cup of strawberries has 4.1 grams of net carbs, 1/2 cup of cranberries has 3.8 grams of net carbs, 1/2 cup of watermelon has 5.5 grams of net carbs, and 1/2 cup of cherries has 5.5 grams of net carbs.  Therefore using these fruits as a garnish for the meal only tends to keep the portions at the appropriate level.  However, if they throw you out of ketosis then you cannot consume them.
    • Include some sea vegetables (for iodine) and fresh herbs.
    • Fill in the rest of your calories with healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. Fats can also be obtained by eating avocados and nuts such as macadamia, almonds, Brazil nuts, and pecans.
    • Additional fats can be obtained by supplementing with Cold-Pressed Black Seed Oil and MCT Oil

A typical meal plan might look like this: 

  • Breakfast:  green tea with 1 tbsp of MCT oil or coconut oil, 3 eggs, 1/2 avocado, and a sliced tomato that is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper.
  • Lunch:  a salad of greens and non-starchy vegetables topped with broiled fish or chicken, and a dressing made from 1 tbsp of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
  • Snacks:  macadamia nuts or almonds and 1 tbsp of MTC oil.
  • Dinner:  whole cut of chicken or fish, with a side of  two non-starchy vegetables (such as sauteed spinach and broccoli) that are drizzled with olive oil, with a green salad topped with an olive oil and fresh lemon dressing. 
  • Nighttime beverage– Herbal tea with added MTC or coconut oil.

Recommended supplements for the Keto diet

  • The ketogenic diet may deplete selenium levels so eat a small handful of Brazil nuts twice per day to keep your levels up, or think of supplementing with Selenium.
  • Adequate magnesium levels are also important when on keto. Magnesium absorbs well through the skin, so one way to achieve this is by applying a topical magnesium oil, or through supplementation.
  • Supplementing with Potassium is also recommended.
  • Taking a quality, bio-available multivitamin and mineral supplement can help to fill nutritional shortfalls.
Using a test strip to reach ketosis

Using a test strip to reach ketosis

Testing for ketones 

You must keep track your carbohydrate intake carefully to ensure that you are staying within your target range.  It usually takes 48 hours after eliminating carbs for the body to reach a state of ketosis.  Ketone Test Strips are available online or at pharmacies  (they are usually found  along with diabetic supplies), and they are used to test the ketone levels in your urine.  The strips have a small absorptive pad on the end which contains a chemical that will change from light pink to a deep purple color in response to the levels of ketones found in the urine.  The strip is then compared to the corresponding scale on the container. 

Try to keep yourself testing in the higher levels for at least 7-10 days, at that point  the tumors should begin to break down.  That 7-10 days begins after your ketones reach the high levels, not at the start of the low-carb diet, and then you must keep yourself in ketosis and continue on with the diet until all of the cancer is gone.   You should continue to follow a low carbohydrate maintenance diet to prevent it from coming back. You cannot go back to your old eating habits after having cancer.

Cancer is not a genetic disease it is a disease of the mitochondria.” Thomas Seyfried’s lecture on using metabolic therapies such as the ketogenic diet for the treatment of brain cancer.


Dr Mercola interviews Dr D’Agostino on the ketogenic diet

Update on Joe- Joe Mancaruso passed away in July of 2015 from blood clots and a stroke that his family believed were due to the chemotherapy treatments that he received for his testicular cancer in 1985 and again following his diagnosis of lung cancer in 2013.  His death was not due to the return of his cancer.  This post has been updated to promote a healthier version of the ketogenic diet that excludes red meats and dairy as well as chemicals that are found in processed foods as these are all inflammatory to the body and should not be part of a cancer healing diet plan.

Additional Resources:


If you have had your gallbladder removed you will need to supplement with pancreatic enzymes to help you break down proteins and fats.

Read more testimonials:

Read two testimonials of using the ketogenic diet for cancer (breast and prostate)

Read how Kelli O’Brien used the ketogenic diet to heal from brain cancer

Source articles:

Read more about the book Radical Remission

  Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds

Ketone Test Strips

Lung Cancer: Your Way Forward, by Dr Patrick Kinglsey

Related Articles
Cancer is a wake up call which needs to be addressed on multiple fronts.  It is the result of an overly toxic body with an overwhelmed and collapsed immune system due to eating nutritionally depleted diets, exposure to toxins, and having poor lifestyle habits. Research an anticancer diet, adding supplements, detoxing the body, and making lifestyle changes so you can address a cancerous situation with a multifaceted approach.
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