Restricting intake of certain amino acids – the building blocks of protein – may help slow cancer tumour growth, a new study has found. Researchers found that removing two non-essential amino acids – serine and glycine – from the diet of mice slowed the development of lymphoma and intestinal cancer. Researchers also found that the special diet made some cancer cells more susceptible to chemicals in cells called reactive oxygen species. “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,” said Oliver Maddocks from Cancer Research UK. “This kind of restricted diet would be a short term measure and must be carefully controlled and monitored by doctors for safety,” said Karen Vousden from Cancer Research UK.
“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,” Vousden said. 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, researchers said. This could help to select which tumours could be best targeted by diet therapy. 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, researchers said. The study was published in the journal Nature.