Diet may impact the spread of some cancers, according to a study published Wednesday by an international team of researchers.
In studies with mice, the scientists found that a certain amino acid found in some foods played a significant role in increasing the spread of one of the deadliest forms of breast cancer to other areas in the body.
The amino acid is known as asparagine and is commonly found in asparagus, its namesake. The chemical compound is also found in dairy, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, potatoes, beans, nuts, soy and grains. Most fruits and vegetables are low in asparagine, the researchers say.
In treating the mice, the researchers found that restricting the amount of asparagus in the animals' diet reduced the spread of the cancer. The cells used are called triple-negative breast cancer cells, which grow and spread faster than most other cancers.
Research was conducted at 12 institutions around the globe. One of the authors, Simon Knott of Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, said that the study adds credence to the theory that there is a complex interplay between diet and cancer.
"Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests diet can influence the course of the disease," Knott said in a statement.
The researchers said they are planning to soon run tests on human cells. If the results in people are similar, they believe reducing asparagine could become a treatment option for future patients.
The team also believes the study has implications for not just breast cancer, but other types of metastatic cancers as well.
"The study results are extremely suggestive that changes in diet might impact both how an individual responds to primary therapy and their chances of lethal disease spreading later in life," said senior author Gregory Hannon of the University of Cambridge in England.