April 26, 2018

Food may influence cancer spread

09 February 2018, 02:07 | Darrell Baldwin

Representational image

Representational image

Researchers have not tested the low-asparagine diet with human patients yet so the study's future results may change.

An amino acid found in most foods could foster cancer metastasis in lab mice, according to a new study.

A fruit-and-vegetable-rich diet with asparagine-lowering drugs can provide a better treatment and prevent the disease from metastasizing or spreading to other organs at a distance from the primary site.

Asparagine is an amino acid naturally made by the human body to serve as building blocks for proteins.

When asparagine was removed from the diets of mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer, those that would normally have died within a few weeks lived.

In several other cancer types, increased ability of tumour cells to make asparagine was also found to be associated with reduced survival. Restricting asparagine in the body helped to prevent this from happening but it had no effect on the formation of initial breast tumors. If so, the future of breast cancer treatment may include low-asparagine diets and L-asparaginase drug therapy on top of traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, especially considering the compound is so prevalent in a wide variety of common foods. This finding, from mouse models, was confirmed by an examination of data from breast cancer patients.

"Our work has pinpointed one of the key mechanisms that promotes the ability of breast cancer cells to spread", said Professor Greg Hannon, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, in a statement. On the one hand, they administered the mice L-asparaginase, which is chemotherapy drug now used in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is known to thrive on asparagine. When this takes place the disease has already reached stage 4 called the metastatic cancer.

Should this experiment succeed in reducing asparagine levels in the participants' bodies, then the researchers would go ahead and recruit participants with a cancer diagnosis for the next phase of their clinical trials. But now researchers from Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles have looked into potential causes of metastasis and found a possible culprit-meat and potatoes.

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