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Asparagus and dairy: Foods may accelerate breast cancer

Scientists discovered an amino acid found in some foods could promote the spread of breast cancer.

A protein found in asparagus may be linked to the spread of breast cancer.
A protein found in asparagus may be linked to the spread of breast cancer. PA

Several foods, including asparagus and dairy, could promote the spread of fatal breast cancer, Cambridge scientists have found.

Research on animals showed tumour cells were less able to grow without the amino acid, asparagine.

Other foods containing the protein building block include beef, poultry, eggs, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.

The discovery by British and US scientists could pave the way for new treatments based on suppressing the molecule.

Lead scientist Professor Greg Hannon, from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: "Our work has pinpointed one of the key mechanisms that promotes the ability of breast cancer cells to spread.

"When the availability of asparagine was reduced, we saw little impact on the primary tumour in the breast, but tumour cells had reduced capacity for metastases (spread) in other parts of the body.

"This finding adds vital information to our understanding of how we can stop cancer spreading - the main reason patients die from their disease."

An early trial in which healthy patients consume a low-asparagine diet is now under consideration. The next step would involve a clinical trial with cancer patients.

The study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, is published in the journal Nature.

The charity's head nurse Martin Ledwick said: "Research like this is crucial to help develop better treatments for breast cancer patients.

"At the moment, there is no evidence that restricting certain foods can help fight cancer, so it's important for patients to speak to their doctor before making any changes to their diet while having treatment."

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