All are among foods with high levels of asparagine, an amino acid researchers suggest is associated with spreading cancer. If further research confirms these findings in human cells, limits on the asparagine consumption of cancer patients could reinforce existing therapies and help prevent the spread of breast cancer.
"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 in other parts of the body".
While some reports say that diets low in asparagine could prevent cancer from spreading, study co-author and biomedical scientist Simon Knott wants to make it clear that no one should be acting just yet.
"It was a really huge change, [the cancers] were very hard to find", said Greg Hannon, the lead scientist for the study and the director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. Asparagine has also been linked to reduced survival rates in patients suffering from leukemia.
When asparagine was removed from the diets of mice with an aggressive form of breast cancer, those that would normally have died within a few weeks lived.
Foods rich in the amino acid asparagine include dairy products, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, asparagus, beans, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.
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"This study may have implications not only for breast cancer, but for many metastatic cancers", he said. This finding, from mouse models, was confirmed by an examination of data from breast cancer patients.
The team of researchers showed that a low-asparagine diet can help reduce tumourous growths in cancer-affected mice.
The animals were also given a drug that blocks the body's ability to produce it.
Amino acids are used by cells to make proteins. This migration of cancer cells to nearby healthy tissue is called metastasis, and researchers estimate 90 percent of breast cancer deaths are due to it.
"This is interesting research looking at how cutting off the supply of nutrients essential to cancer's spread could help restrain tumours", added Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician.