In a new study, researchers found that certain nutrients and chemicals in food use the same molecular pathways that colon cancer therapies use to slow tumor growth.
This means doctors can manipulate one such shared pathway with a dietary therapy to similarly slow tumor growth.
The research was conducted by a team from Duke University and other institutes.
Diet has a huge impact on other diseases, including diabetes and high blood pressure. In some cases, diet can be even more effective in containing the disease than drugs.
The hope that food might somehow serve as a weapon in the cancer fight has long been a tantalizing notion among scientists and patients alike, but evidence supporting its benefits remains flimsy
In the study, the team focused on an essential amino acid known as methionine.
The body needs it for proper cell function, and it must be acquired from the diet, primarily from the consumption of meat and eggs.
Methionine’s function is increasingly being analyzed for its role in human health, and some previous showed that the reduction of the amino acid can help fight aging and obesity.
Its function in cancer has been unclear, but it absorbs into the body’s cellular mechanisms using the same pathways that several chemotherapy drugs and radiation use to slow tumor growth.
The researchers first used colon cancer tumors from patients that were grafted into mice, along with mouse models of sarcoma tissues.
They then fed the mice a diet low in methionine, resulting in a reduction of tumor growth.
An analysis of the metabolic process showed that the amino acid acted through the same cellular process that drugs and radiation employ.
The researchers say that dietary restriction of methionine may be possible to enhance the effects of chemotherapies.
But more research is needed to confirm the findings on human patients.
The team also cautions in some cancers, restricting the amino acid could cause tumor growth, given the unique ways malignancies arise and spread in different organs.
One author of the study is Jason Locasale, an associate professor in the pharmacology and cancer biology department at Duke University.
The study is published in Nature.
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