Scientists have discovered that an amino acid called asparagine is essential for breast cancer spread, and by restricting it, cancer cells stopped invading other parts of the body in mice, according to research* part-funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Nature today, (Wednesday).
Most breast cancer patients do not die from their primary tumour, but from the spread of cancer to the lungs, brain, bones, or other organs. To be able to spread, cancer cells first need to leave the original tumour, survive in the blood as ‘circulating tumour cells’, and then colonise other organs.
Finding ways to stop this from happening is fundamental to increasing survival.
Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute found that blocking the production of asparagine with a drug called L-asparaginase in mice, and putting them on a low-asparagine diet, greatly reduced the breast cancer’s ability to spread.
Asparagine is an amino acid – the building blocks that cells use to make proteins. 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.
Researchers were prompted by these mouse studies to examine data from breast
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