Health Care

Food may influence cancer spread

Limiting asparagine in one's diet dramatically reduces the cancer's ability to travel to distant sites in the body

Metastatic Breast Cancer cured in Future as breast cancer may have the origin in the breast but it can quickly spread to other organs of the body through bloodstream or the lymphatic system, and display new strongholds in other organs.

Breast cancer, the most common form of cancer in women, is responsible for more than 41,000 deaths each year, primarily because of the disease's ability to spread throughout the body.

The result: Cancer in mice on the low asparagine diet spread much more slowly. "Apparently, the more active this enzyme, the better breast cancer (in this mouse model) is able to spread".

"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 based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. But now many doctors are warning against this assumption, pointing out that asparagus will not give you cancer.

Studying the effects of asparagine could also alter treatments for other types of cancer, Ravi Thadhani at Cedars-Sinai Hospital said. Foods that contain high amounts of asparagines include poultry meat and eggs, dairy, whey, beef, fish, sea foods. Food intake has been linked to cancer growth in the past, and this new study is another example of the connection.

When the lab mice were given food rich in asparagine, the cancer cells spread more rapidly.

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Humans also have this gene, which allows them to produce asparagine biologically.

Experts in the field including Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now have added that this study is still preliminary and should not prompt breast cancer patients to go on drastic diets without medical advice.

"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.

Amino acids are building blocks in proteins.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, told the BBC: "Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is dependent on asparagine". To cite an example for some early stage breast cancer patients, surgery might be the first stepping stone but that may not be the choice for the stage 4 breast cancer.