Eating chicken and fish 'adds more fire' to breast cancer

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A protein found in asparagus and other everyday foods has been linked to the spread of breast cancer, scientists have discovered.

EATING chicken, dairy and potatoes makes cancer more deadly by helping it spread to other parts of the body, a study suggests.

Reducing the amount of asparagine in the mice reduced the spread of cancer but had no impact on the development of their primary tumour, the journal Nature reports.

The researchers studied triple-negative breast cancer cells, which grow and spread faster than most other types of cancer cells. Anti-estrogen therapy is usually successful in treating the disease initially, but ER-positive breast cancers will often recur because tumors develop a resistance to treatment.

Finding ways to stop this from happening is key to increasing survival.

Fish are just one of the foods that are rich in the amino acid asparagine. It is when the cancer spreads throughout the body - or metastasises - that it can become fatal.

Research from past studies found that most tumor cells remain in the primary breast site, but a subset of cells leaves the breast and enters the bloodstream.


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

Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said patients should not go on drastic diets on the back of this study.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK's head nurse, also stresses it is important for cancer patients to speak to their doctors before making any dietary changes.

The researchers gave mice with breast cancer an enzyme that prevents the production of the amino acid asparagine.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, told the BBC: "Interestingly, the drug L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is dependent on asparagine". It's possible that in future, this drug could be re-purposed to help treat breast cancer patients.

Investigators now are considering conducting an early-phase clinical trial in which healthy participants would consume a low-asparagine diet. They do know that not all cancer patients would benefit from this treatment.

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