The idea of starving cancer is getting traction. A strict low-protein diet—which means cutting out meats, eggs, oats and dairy—starves cancer cells and slows, and even stops, their growth.

Proteins contain two non-essential amino acids—serine and glycine—that cancer cells need. In tests on laboratory mice, removing the amino acids also slowed the growth of the cells, researchers from the University of Glasgow found.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy boost levels of the amino acids in the cancer cells, suggesting that the conventional treatments are helping cancers to grow.

The restricted diet may not work for all cancers. In the current study, it was effective against lymphoma and intestinal cancer, but the researchers fear it may not help in cancers that have a special genetic expression, known as the Kras gene, that is found in pancreatic cancer, for instance.

They also say that the diet is very restricted and specialised, and people shouldn’t just adopt it without being supervised by a medical professional.

(Source: Nature, 2017; 544: 372)


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