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09 February 2018, 03:46 | Louis Holland
A worker marks blood samples at the laboratory of a cancer treatment center
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 Wednesday. Looking at data on several other types of cancer, the researchers found that the cancer of patients who naturally produce more asparagine was more likely to spread.
As well as ingesting it, our body can make asparagine. Also, breast cancer cells with higher levels of the amino acid were more likely to spread.
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Further, metastasis was found greatly limited by reducing asparagine synthetase, treatment with the chemotherapy drug L-asparaginase, or dietary restriction. Fruits and vegetables majorly contain lower amount of asparagine.
"These exciting findings provide the foundation for research into an entirely new type of cancer treatment that targets the metabolism of tumour cells to control their growth and spread". Foods rich in asparagineinclude dairy, whey, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.
"This finding adds vital information to our understanding of how we can stop cancer spreading - the main reason patients die from their disease", Hannon said. They were also put on a low-asparagine diet.
"This study may have implications not only for breast cancer, but for many metastatic cancers", added Ravi Thadhani, from the varsity.
The study, reported in the journal Nature, was carried out on mice which had a highly developed breast cancer.
Asparagine is an amino acid - a building block of protein - and takes its name from asparagus.
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Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of United Kingdom group Breast Cancer Now, said: "On current evidence, we don't recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors". It's possible that in future, this drug could be re-purposed to help treat breast cancer patients. But the researchers are still considering a human trial to see if the diet can really help.
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