A compound found in asparagus has been found to aid the spread of breast cancer.
I wish I was joking, but I am not.
For victims of breast cancer, the initial tumor is seldom deadly. Instead, it is the secondary tumors that spread to the bones, brain and lungs through metastasis that can become life-threatening.
Researchers in the UK, US and Canada studied breast cancer tumors in a mouse model. Most mice died within weeks as metastases spread throughout the body. But when the mice were deprived of asparagine – either through a low-asparagine diet or drugs to block asparagine – the number of malignant metastases decreased significantly.
Asparagine is an amino acid found in asparagus (from where it gets its name), poultry, seafood and other foods.
The study used an Agilent Bioanalyzer System to measure RNA integrity.
The researchers found that suppression of asparagine did not prevent initial breast cancer tumors, but significantly reduced the spread of breast cancer around the body. Furthermore, when they examined records of deceased breast cancer patients, they found that victims with the highest number of metastases also had the highest levels of asparagine.
“We’re seeing increasing evidence that specific cancers are addicted to specific components of our diet,” says study author Greg Hannon. “In the future, by modifying a patient’s diet or by using drugs that change the way that tumor cells can access these nutrients, we hope to improve outcomes in therapy.”
But as Delyth Morgan of Breast Cancer Now stresses, “We don’t recommend patients totally exclude any specific food group from their diet without speaking to their doctors.”
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