Feeding mice with breast cancer a diet low in the amino acid asparagine significantly reduces their tumours' abilities to spread, a study found. If this nutrient is absent, the growth of breast cancer can be slowed, they note.
A common amino acid produced in the human body or absorbed from food can be suppressed to stop breast cancer spread in mice, researchers reported yesterday.
But Martin Ledwick, from Cancer Research UK, said: "At the moment, there is no evidence that restricting certain foods can help fight cancer".
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Under normal conditions, they would die within a couple of weeks as it spread through their bodies.
Researchers were prompted by these mouse studies to examine data from breast cancer patients.
Could an asparagine-restricted diet help stop tumour spread in cancer patients?
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There has been an earlier study published a year ago that showed that the amino acids glycine and serine were important for the development and spread of lymphomas and intestinal cancers.
Prof Greg Hannon, lead researchers, said that this was a "difficult" find and a really "huge" and significant change. Professor Hannon said that their studies show that some cancers are "addicted" to some amino acids or parts of our diets specifically.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, added: 'If shown to be an effective approach, it's possible that dietary advice to avoid foods containing asparagine, or drugs that break down this nutrient, could be added to standard treatment to help prevent metastasis. One of the authors, Simon Knott of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, noted that the study adds credence to the theory that there is a complex interplay between diet and cancer. Most deaths from the condition are caused by secondary tumours. Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, stated: "Interestlingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is dependent on asparagine". While the body can make asparagine, it's also found in our diet, with higher concentrations in some foods including asparagus, soy, dairy, poultry, and seafood. This drug may also be tried in breast cancer patients he said if proven in future clinical trials.
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