A diet that starves triple-negative breast cancer cells of an essential nutrient primes the cancer cells to be more easily killed by a targeted antibody treatment, University of Wisconsin (UW) Carbone Cancer Center scientists report published in the June 15, 2015 issue of Clinical Cancer Research. The article is titled “Methionine Deprivation Induces a Targetable Vulnerability in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cells by Enhancing TRAIL Receptor-2 Expression.” This article was choses as a highlighted study by the journal its June 15 edition. The study's senior author, Dr. Vincent Cryns, Professor of Medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, says the study lays the foundation for a clinical trial to see if a low-methionine diet will help improve outcomes in women with "triple-negative" breast cancer. Methionine is an essential amino acid that is present in low concentrations in some vegan diets. Patients with triple-negative breast cancer have limited treatment options because their tumor cells lack the three receptors -- estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2) -- commonly targeted in hormone or chemotherapy. Scientists have known for decades that methionine deficiency can block the growth of many types of cancer, but the underlying mechanisms have puzzled researchers. "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," Dr. Cryns says. "What's particularly exciting about our findings is that they suggest that a dietary intervention can increase the effectiveness of a targeted cancer therapy."
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