Breast cancer is a complex problem that researchers all over the nation have been attempting to solve with varying methods. We saw five University of Cincinnati researchers last year who all won grants for contributions to the field, and spotlighted an Ohio State University team who worked on reversing breast tumor growth only a few months ago. A new study from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, suggests that our diet may be an understudied factor when it comes to fighting breast cancer tumor development.
Despite all the recent breakthroughs in breast cancer treatment, there remain some varieties that elude eradication. In particular, triple-negative breast cancer cells lack the most common protein receptors that are targeted and exploited by most treatment methods.
Approaching the problem from a different angle, Madison professor of medicine Vincent Cryns (image left, courtesy University of Wisconsin) studied a well-known correlation between cancer cell starvation and the absence of a certain amino acid called methionine. Methionine deficiency has been known to block several types of cancer growth, but Cryns is the first to discover the precise reason why.
"We've shown that removing methionine can have a specific effect on a molecular pathway that regulates cell death to increase the vulnerability of cancer cells to treatments that target this pathway," he explains in a recent University of Wisconsin news article.
"What's particularly exciting about our findings is that they suggest that a dietary intervention can increase the effectiveness of a targeted cancer therapy."
Methionine is an essential amino acid found most commonly in meats and fish. Fruits and vegetables, however, have a relatively low methionine concentration. In mouse studies, completely removing methionine from the diet immediately shrunk their tumors.
While Cryns doesn’t recommend a methionine-free diet for humans, he proposes that a diet lower in methionine, like a vegetarian or vegan diet, may reduce risk and accelerate treatment. His next goal is to pinpoint the optimal concentration of methionine in the body to stay well-nourished while also starving tumors.
Dr. Cryns' research is funded by the NIH, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and other agencies. For further reading regarding funding for the University of Wisconsin, Madison and its studies, click on the link below:
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. visits the University of Wisconsin campus for two of our BioResearch Product Faire™ events each year. We hold our Madison University Research Park BioResearch Product Faire™ and follow it up with our Madison BioResearch Product Faire™. For more information about these events, please follow their respective links. If you’re interested in attending a show closer to home, please look at our 2015 schedule of events to find a nationwide selection.