Researchers at Cedars-Sinai found limiting the amino acid dramatically reduced the ability of the cancer to spread.
A team of worldwide cancer researchers from the UK, US and Canada studied the impact of asparagine in triple-negative breast cancer cells, which grow and spread faster than most other types of cancer cells. "The next step in the research would be to understand how this translates from the lab to patients and which patients are most likely to benefit from any potential treatment". If the results in people are similar, they believe reducing asparagine could become a treatment option for future patients.
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". Foods low in asparagine include most fruits and vegetables. By putting mice on a diet low in the amino acid and giving them a treatment that blocks its production, scientists were able to stop their cancer spreading.More news: Elon Musk's Tesla announces biggest quarterly loss ever
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This may be the first time that a change in diet has been linked to a biological process that promotes cancer spread, the researchers said. Asparagine can be made by the human body and is also found in food, with higher concentrations in asparagus, soy, dairy, poultry and seafood. The researchers, who published their work Wednesday in the journal Nature, used a number of methods to reduce asparagine levels in the mice, including changes to their diets.
At this stage, it's important to remember that human trials have not yet been conducted, so if you do have cancer, you shouldn't restrict your own diet until the evidence suggests you should. There has been an earlier study published past year that showed that the amino acids glycine and serine were important for the development and spread of lymphomas and intestinal cancers.
"It was a really huge change, [the cancers] were very hard to find", said Greg Hannon, the lead scientist for the study and the director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.