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Food can influence the spread of Cancer

    Abdulaziz Sobh
    By Abdulaziz Sobh

    Categories: Health

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    Food can influence the spread of cancer

    Animal research, published in the journal Nature, showed that breast tumors had problems without nutritional asparagine.

    It is found in the favorite asparagus of food lovers, as well as in poultry, seafood, and many other foods.

    In the future, scientists hope to take advantage of the "culinary addictions" of cancer to improve treatment.

    Asparagine is an amino acid, a protein block, and takes its name from asparagus.

    The study, carried out at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, took place in mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

    Normally they would die in a couple of weeks as a tumor spread throughout the body.

    But when the mice received a diet low in asparagine or drugs to block asparagine, the tumor struggled to spread.

    "It was a really big change, [the cancers] were very hard to find," said Professor Greg Hannon.

    Last year, the University of Glasgow showed that the cutting of the amino acids serine and glycine delayed the development of lymphoma and intestinal cancers.

    Professor Hannon told the BBC: "We are seeing growing evidence that specific cancers are addicted to specific components of our diet.

    "In the future, by modifying a patient's diet or by using medications that change the way that tumor cells can access these nutrients, we hope to improve the results of therapy."

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    An initial tumor is rarely fatal. It is when cancer spreads throughout the body, or metastasizes, that it can become fatal.

    A cancer cell must undergo major changes to spread, must learn to break the main tumor, survive in the bloodstream and thrive in any part of the body.

    It is this process for which researchers think that asparagine is necessary.

    But do not fear asparagus lovers, these findings should still be confirmed in people and asparagine is difficult to avoid in the diet anyway.

    In the long term, scientists believe that patients will be given special drinks that are nutritionally balanced but lacking asparagine.

    Professor Charles Swanton, clinical chief of Cancer Research UK, said: "Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which depends on asparagine.

    "It is possible that in the future, this medication may be reused to help treat patients with breast cancer."

    Additional tests are still necessary.

    Baroness Delyth Morgan, executive director of Breast Cancer Now, said patients should not follow drastic diets in the later part of this study.

    She said: "We do not recommend that patients completely exclude a specific group of foods from their diet without talking to their doctors.

    "We would also encourage all patients to follow a healthy and varied diet."