Food protein linked to cancer spread

  • Food protein linked to cancer spread

Food protein linked to cancer spread

Cambridge researchers claim that asparagine, an amino acid that is also found in dairy products and poultry, causes cancer cells to move from their original site into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.

"Our bodies make asparagine, as well as numerous other amino acids that form proteins, and [asparagine synthetase] is one of the enzymes that helps make it", explained Dr. Alex Berezow, senior fellow of biomedical science for the American Council on Science and Healthy said in the Baltimore Sun.

They then examined data from breast cancer patients, which indicated that the greater the ability of breast cancer cells to make asparagine, the more likely the disease is to spread.

"Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests diet can influence the course of the disease", said lead authpr Simon Knott, Associate Director at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre - a US-based non-profit.

Breast cancer experts do not recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors.

However, due to the prevalence of asparagine in many types of food, drugs that block the intake of the amino acid, named L-asparagine, may prove to be easier to administer. Fruits and vegetables majorly contain lower amount of asparagine.

Tests with lab mice revealed that a non-essential compound dubbed asparagine may be a key enabler of breast cancer spread, the researchers said.

By reducing asparagine in the mouse diet, metastasis was reduced by half, Hannon told AFP. The researchers, who published their work in the journal Nature, used a number of methods to reduce asparagine levels in the mice, including changes to their diets, as USA Today noted.

Cancer Research UK's chief clinician Charles Swanton said that further research is required to check whether the findings can be applied in a real-life scenario.

The team also believes the study has implications for not just breast cancer, but other types of metastatic cancers as well.

However, as the research is still in the very early stages scientists must now replicate the findings in human trials, and also investigate which patients are most likely to benefit from any potential treatment, it was noted.