Home / News / World /  Cancer treatment: Low-protein diet stops growth of malignant cells, study says

A low-protein diet was shown to disrupt the nutritional signalling pathway that activates a master regulator of cancer growth in cells and in mice. Changes in nutrition may be necessary to improve colon cancer treatment, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center.

"A low-protein diet won't be a standalone treatment. It has to be combined with something else, such as chemotherapy," Sumeet Solanki - research investigator at the Rogel Cancer Center -.said.

The risk with a low-protein diet is that people with cancer often experience muscle weakness and weight loss, which limiting protein could exasperate.

For cancer cells to live and develop, they need nutrition. mTORC1 is one of a cell's most significant nutrient-sensing molecules. It enables cells to sense various nutrients and expand and multiply as a result, which is why it's frequently referred to as a master regulator of cell growth. Cells reduce the nutrient-sensing cascade's activity and turn down mTORC1 when nutrients are scarce.

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Cells' ability to grow and proliferate in response to dietary cues is governed by the regulator mTORC1. It is known to make cancer more resistant to conventional treatments and is extremely active in malignancies with specific mutations. Through a complex called GATOR, a low-protein diet, and more specifically a decrease in two essential amino acids, altered the nutritional signals.

"In colon cancer, when you decrease the nutrients available in the tumours, the cells don't know what to do. Without the nutrients to grow, they undergo a kind of crisis, which leads to massive cell death," said senior author Yatrik M. Shah, PhD, Horace W. Davenport Collegiate Professor of Physiology at Michigan Medicine.

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Inhibiting mTORC's cancer-causing signals has been the main goal of prior attempts to inhibit it. But when patients stop taking these inhibitors, their cancer returns because of the serious side effects they cause. The research suggests a different strategy for inhibiting mTORC: blocking the nutrient pathway by restricting amino acids through a low-protein diet.

Researchers found that limiting amino acids increased cell death and prevented cancer from spreading in cells and animals. In tissue samples from colon cancer patients, high levels of mTORC were demonstrated to be associated with worse outcomes and increased chemo-resistance, which was confirmed by the researchers, Solanki asserts that this might allow patients who carry this marker to have their treatments personalised.

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Long-term protein restriction for cancer patients is not optimal. However, Shah said, if you can identify critical times when patients could follow a low-protein diet for a week or two, such as at the beginning of chemotherapy or radiation, you could potentially boost the effectiveness of those treatments.

(With ANI inputs)

Sounak Mukhopadhyay
Sounak Mukhopadhyay, who also goes by the name Sounak Mukherjee, has been producing digital news since 2012. He's worked for the International Business Times, The Inquisitr, and Moneycontrol in the past. He's also contributed to Free Press Journal and TheRichest with feature articles. He covers news for a wide range of subjects including business, finance, economy, politics and social media. Before working with digital news publications, he worked as a freelance content writer.
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