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Altering amino acids incapacitates cancer

By Tim Sandle     Apr 23, 2017 in Science
Amino acids are necessary for life. When these molecules go wrong they can trigger the formation of cancerous cells. New research suggests targeting two amino acids can stop cancerous cell growth.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, necessary to maintain cellular function (where twenty amino acids are involved in the human body). In the form of proteins, amino acids comprise the second-largest component (water is the largest) of human muscles, cells and other tissues. Some amino acids are produced naturally by the body, whereas others are taken in through a varied diet.
When amino acids go wrong this can lead to the formation of cancerous cells. New findings suggest that cutting out two amino acids will make cancerous cells more susceptible to cell death. This has come about after Cancer Research UK scientists noted that some types of cancer are unable to manufacture the amino acids necessary for cancerous cells to thrive. Here lymphoma and intestinal cancers appear to require the amino acids glycine and serine.
This led to the research question: if cancerous cells are deprived of these amino acids does this lead to the suppression of cancerous growth? In laboratory studies this appears to be so. Researchers found that in the absence of serine and glycine, certain types of cancer cells became susceptible to death triggered by reactive oxygen species found within the cells.
In conversation with Laboratory Roots, principal researcher Dr. Oliver Maddocks, who works at the University of Glasgow, stated: “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 the future, helping to make other treatments more effective.”
Hence the research suggests that alterations to diet changes could make chemotherapy more effective. Here Dr Emma Smith, who works for 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 tumors.”
However, this remains theoretical and further research will be needed. It is important for any patients undergoing cancer treatment to consult a medical professional before considering any dietary changes. This is especially because the research relates to some specific kinds of cancer only.
The findings are published in the journal Nature, under the title “Modulating the therapeutic response of tumors to serine and glycine starvation.”
More about Amino acids, Cancer, Protein, Medicine
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