The most common form of brain cancer is glioblastoma (GBM). It's also the most lethal. So researchers are hard at work to increase their understanding of this condition so they can treat it more effectively. Fortunately, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have recently uncovered new information about GBM. And if you or a loved one is suffering from GBM, you may need to know this information before you prepare your menu for Thanksgiving dinner this year.
The scientists, who published their results in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, have discovered that GBM cells lack key enzymes needed to properly metabolize the essential amino acids methionine and tryptophan. The abnormal metabolism of methionine activates octogenes, which when expressed can contribute to cancer growth. The abnormal tryptophan metabolism in turn keeps the immune system from recognizing the cancerous GBM cells.
The study authors suggest that it may be possible to treat GBM by restoring the missing enzymes to the metabolic pathways. This could help slow tumor growth while allowing the immune system to “see” the cells and do its job of attacking them. They're also hopeful that the increased rate at which GBM cells consume methionine will make it easier for doctors to map tumors, making surgeries and targeted radiation treatments more accurate.
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While tryptophan and methionine are essential amino acids for us to consume because the body cannot make them, the researchers suspect that for GBM patients, limiting consumption of these nutrients may be wise. You'll find these two in cheese, lamb, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, and soybeans. As you can see, these are the main sources of protein for many of us, so it's tricky to cut out these amino acids while still getting sufficient protein.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with GBM — and 11,880 people received this diagnosis last year alone — you should discuss this research with your doctor. If he or she believes cutting back on your consumption of tryptophan and methionine would be a good idea, you may need to work with a dietitian to ensure you get the macronutrients your body needs.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD