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Study Links Food Compound to Spread of Cancer

Scientists Halt Breast Cancer Spread in Mouse Study

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute showed that breast tumours struggle to grow and spread when they do not have access to the amino acid asparagine, which is found in asparagus, seafood, french fries, potato chips and toasted bread.

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 is typically resistant to traditional forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In the study, published in the journal Nature, the team discovered that the appearance of asparagine synthetase - the enzyme cells used to make asparagine - in a primary tumour was strongly associated with later cancer spread.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said patients should not go on drastic diets on the back of this study. When the laboratory mice were given food rich in asparagine, the cancer cells spread more rapidly. The current study investigated whether or not limiting the levels of asparagine in the body could help to slow down tumor growth.

"Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests diet can influence the course of the disease", noted Simon Knott, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics at Cedars-Sinai and one of two first authors of the study.

According to the researchers' new discovery, many foods that most likely make up the bulk of your diet contain a protein building block that could promote the spread of breast cancer.

Prof. Hannon and team had a two-pronged approach. L-asparaginase acts by inhibiting the production of the amino acid asparagine in the body.

"In the future, restricting this amino acid through a controlled diet plan or by other means could be an additional part of treatment for some patients with breast and other cancers". This double approach resulted in a reduction of breast cancer tumor metastases in the mice.

Both of these changes greatly reduced breast cancer's ability to spread. This migration of cancer cells to nearby healthy tissue is called metastasis, and researchers estimate 90 percent of breast cancer deaths are due to it. This drug may also be tried in breast cancer patients he said if proven in future clinical trials.

New research is claiming that one particular amino acid - found in everything from beef, to poultry, to eggs, and vegetables - has been linked to the spread of cancer.