In a recent study, researchers from the Cancer Research UK find that diet without certain amino acids could help slow down tumor growth and increase cancer survival.
The two types of removed amino acids are serine and glycine.
Amino acids are the building blocks that cells need to make proteins.
While healthy cells can make sufficient serine and glycine, cancer cells are much more dependent on getting these vital amino acids from the diet.
In the study, the researchers removed the two non-essential amino acids from the diet of mice with lymphoma and intestinal cancer.
They found that mice fed by the new diet showed slower development of the cancer disease.
The researchers also found that the special diet made some cancer cells more susceptible to chemicals in cells called reactive oxygen species.
Because chemotherapy and radiotherapy can boost levels of these chemicals in the cells, this research suggests diet without the two amino acids may boost these cancer treatments.
However, the team also showed that the diet was less effective in fighting tumors with an activated Kras gene, such as most pancreatic cancer.
This is because the faulty gene boosted the ability of the cancer cells to make their own serine and glycine.
The researchers suggest that human diet is complex and protein (the main source of all amino acids) is vital for our health and well-being.
Patients cannot safely cut out these specific amino acids simply by following some form of home-made diet.
Instead, the diet should be carefully controlled and monitored by doctors.
The next stage of the team’s work would be to conduct clinical trials with cancer patients to assess the feasibility and safety of such a treatment.
They also need to work out which patients are most likely to benefit, depending on the characteristics of their cancer.
The study is published in Nature finding.
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