More interesting news about the anti-cancer effects of the essential amino acid L-arginine (or simply, arginine). A European study investigated the effects of L-arginine on tumor cell growth on human gastric cancer cell lines. Would L-arginine promote cancer cell death?

Gastric, or stomach, cancers have a poor prognosis because they develop slowly over many years without producing symptoms. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer may have spread, or metastasized, which is much more difficult to treat. The 5-year survival rate is only 5-15%.

Most stomach cancers are adenocarcinomas, which develop from the cells lining the stomach.  Smoking irritates these cells, and smoking greatly increases the risk of developing gastric cancer. Eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as fresh berries, could reduce the risk.

S Nanthakumaran, I Brown, et al, researchers at the University of Aberdeen’s College of Life Sciences and Medicine, in Scotland, UK, developed a study on immunonutrition. Immunonutrition is the development of nutritional components that favorably affect the immune function.

The researchers wanted to examine the effects of the amino acid L-arginine on tumor cell growth, cancer cell invasion, and the cancer’s effect on gene expression.

Can L-arginine help treat stomach cancer?

L-arginine is already proven to enhance the immune system, and reduce infectious complications in patients undergoing gastrointestinal surgery.  Healthy people are usually able to synthesize enough L-arginine in their bodies. However, L-arginine supplements are useful for people with surgical or other traumas.

In order study L-arginine’s effect on tumor cells, the researchers grew human gastric cancer cell lines in vitro. Different concentrations of L-arginine were tested.

L-arginine caused the cancer cells to die, by inducing cancer cell apoptosis  (programmed cell death).The researchers discovered cell growth inhibition was caused by the L-arginine increasing the expression of a significant protein: caspase 8. Caspases play an essential role in promoting apoptosis.

L-arginine, therefore, has the potential of being developed into an anti-cancer agent.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19036482/