A team of global cancer researchers from the UK, US and Canada studied the impact of asparagine in triple-negative breast cancer cells, which grow and spread faster than most other types of cancer cells.
In future, the scientists believe that alongside conventional treatments like chemotherapy, breast cancer patients could be given a diet in hospital that restricts asparagine to help stop the disease spreading.
Studying the effects of asparagine also could alter treatments for other types of cancer, investigators say. Of course not, but researchers say this is more evidence that what we eat can change the course of disease. Proving that asparagine could actually be quite a necessary component needed for a cancer cell to metastasize.
Through copious research this team of scientists were able to prove that aggressive breast cancer tumors in mice who were given a low-asparagine diet, or even drugs that worked to block asparagine (called L-asparaginase), actually really struggled to spread. Fruits and vegetables usually are low on asparagines compared to animal products.
According to The charity's head nurse Martin Ledwick: "Research like this is crucial to help develop better treatments for breast cancer patients".
GETTYMost breast cancer patients do not die from their primary tumour but from the spread of cancer
"This is a very promising lead and one of the very few instances where there is a scientific rationale for a dietary modification influencing cancer", the study's lead author, Greg Hannon, told The Guardian. This drug is being used routinely to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Additionally, to confirm the role played by asparagine in the spread of cancerous tumors, the team analyzed data from breast cancer patients.
Investigators now are considering conducting an early-phase clinical trial in which healthy participants would consume a low-asparagine diet.
Diet full of asparagine involves whey, poultry, seafood, dairy, beef, asparagus, fish, eggs, legumes, seeds, potatoes, nuts, whole grains and soy.
If further research replicates this finding in humans, reducing cancer patients' consumption of asparagine could enhance existing therapies, Knott added.