Nav: Home

Amino acids in diet could be key to starving cancer

April 19, 2017

Cutting out certain amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins -- from the diet of mice slows tumour growth and prolongs survival, according to new research* published in Nature.

Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and the University of Glasgow found that removing two non-essential amino acids -- serine and glycine -- from the diet of mice slowed the development of lymphoma and intestinal cancer.

The researchers also found that the special diet made some cancer cells more susceptible to chemicals in cells called reactive oxygen species.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy boost levels of these chemicals in the cells, so this research suggests a specially formulated diet could make conventional cancer treatments more effective.

The next stage would be to set up clinical trials with cancer patients to assess the feasibility and safety of such a treatment.

Dr Oliver Maddocks, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Glasgow, said: "Our findings suggest that restricting specific amino acids through a controlled diet plan could be an additional part of treatment for some cancer patients in future, helping to make other treatments more effective.

Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK's chief scientist and study co-author said: "This kind of restricted diet would be a short term measure and must be carefully controlled and monitored by doctors for safety. Our diet is complex and protein -- the main source of all amino acids - is vital for our health and well-being. This means that patients cannot safely cut out these specific amino acids simply by following some form of home-made diet."

Amino acids are the building blocks that cells need to make proteins. While healthy cells are able to make sufficient serine and glycine, cancer cells are much more dependent on getting these vital amino acids from the diet.

However, the study also found that the diet was less effective in tumours with an activated Kras gene, such as most pancreatic cancer, because the faulty gene boosted the ability of the cancer cells to make their own serine and glycine. This could help to select which tumours could be best targeted by diet therapy.

Dr Emma Smith, science communication manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This is a really interesting look at how cutting off the supply of nutrients essential to cancer cell growth and division could help restrain tumours.

"The next steps are clinical trials in people to see if giving a specialised diet that lacks these amino acids is safe and helps slow tumour growth as seen in mice. We'd also need to work out which patients are most likely to benefit, depending on the characteristics of their cancer."
-end-
For media enquiries contact Stephanie McClellan in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 5314 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to editor:
  • Maddocks et al. Modulating the therapeutic response of tumours to serine and glycine starvation. Nature
  • This research was funded by Cancer Research UK and the European Research Council.


About Cancer Research UK
  • Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.


For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Cancer Research UK

Related Cancer Articles:

Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
Cancer genomics continued: Triple negative breast cancer and cancer immunotherapy
Continuing PLOS Medicine's special issue on cancer genomics, Christos Hatzis of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., USA and colleagues describe a new subtype of triple negative breast cancer that may be more amenable to treatment than other cases of this difficult-to-treat disease.
Metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread identified
Osaka University researchers revealed that the metabolite D-2-hydroxyglurate (D-2HG) promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition of colorectal cancer cells, leading them to develop features of lower adherence to neighboring cells, increased invasiveness, and greater likelihood of metastatic spread.
UH Cancer Center researcher finds new driver of an aggressive form of brain cancer
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have identified an essential driver of tumor cell invasion in glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that can occur at any age.
UH Cancer Center researchers develop algorithm to find precise cancer treatments
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers developed a computational algorithm to analyze 'Big Data' obtained from tumor samples to better understand and treat cancer.
New analytical technology to quantify anti-cancer drugs inside cancer cells
University of Oklahoma researchers will apply a new analytical technology that could ultimately provide a powerful tool for improved treatment of cancer patients in Oklahoma and beyond.
Radiotherapy for lung cancer patients is linked to increased risk of non-cancer deaths
Researchers have found that treating patients who have early stage non-small cell lung cancer with a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy is associated with a small but increased risk of death from causes other than cancer.
Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer
Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer?
UI Cancer Center, Governors State to address cancer disparities in south suburbs
The University of Illinois Cancer Center and Governors State University have received a joint four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help both institutions conduct community-based research to reduce cancer-related health disparities in Chicago's south suburbs.
Leading cancer research organizations to host international cancer immunotherapy conference
The Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research will join forces to sponsor the first International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York, Sept.

Related Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".