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Should I Stop Eating Asparagus To Halt Cancer's Spread?

08 February 2018

A team of global cancer researchers have shown in mice that limiting the consumption of the amino acid called asparagine stopped the spread of triple-negative breast cancer.

Fish are just one of the foods that are rich in the amino acid asparagine.

"Our work has pinpointed one of the key mechanisms that promotes the ability of breast cancer cells to spread".

A protein found in asparagus and other everyday foods has been linked to the spread of breast cancer, scientists have discovered.

In future, the scientists believe that alongside conventional treatments like chemotherapy, breast cancer patients could be given a diet in hospital that restricts asparagine to help stop the disease spreading and improve outcomes.

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In mouse studies, "we could reduce metastasis either by changing the ability of tumour cells to make asparagine, by treating mice with a drug that reduces the availability of asparagine in the body, or by eliminating asparagine from the diet", said Greg Hannon of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

"We first identified this change in a patient who had ER-positive breast cancer, received anti-estrogen therapy, had her breast cancer recur and eventually passed away from the disease", said senior author Adrian Lee, Ph.D., director of the Women's Cancer Research Center at MWRI and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Latest data indicates the greater the ability of breast cancer cells to make asparagine, the more likely the disease is to spread.

They said their findings could also have implications for other cancer types, including kidney, and head and neck cancers. The study has been performed on mice diagnosed with a severe breast cancer.

Researchers are now considering human trials to assess the impact of reducing dietary intake of asparagine.

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Dr George Poulogiannis, Dr Michel Wagner and PhD student Marc Olivier Turgeon worked on the research that took place at the ICR.

Asparagus, potato, seafood, nuts and red meat contain compounds that fuel the spread of breast cancer, a new study has warned.

"This is interesting research looking at how cutting off the supply of nutrients essential to cancer's spread could help restrain tumours".

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".

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Should I Stop Eating Asparagus To Halt Cancer's Spread?