Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Taipei Medical University's online course, Nutrition: Eating to Live Well. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsAs we know from earlier that glutamine is the energy source of fast-proliferated cells. Fast-proliferated cells include immunocyte and intestinal mucosal cells. They are fast-growing and fast-dividing cells. Other than these cells, can cancer cells be viewed as fast-proliferated cells? Cancer cells are actually very fast-proliferated. In that case, will it be okay for patients with cancer to supplement additional glutamine? Since it is the energy source of fast proliferation cells, will the supplement of glutamine promote the proliferation of cancer cells? In fact, the relationship between glutamine and cancer has been studied in many researches in the past.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 secondsAccording to a couple animal experiments, the results showed that the supplement of glutamine restrains the growth of breast cancer cells because it promotes the activity of the natural killer cell in the body. Natural killer cell is capable of eliminating the breast cancer cells. Since, supplement of glutamine promotes activation of killer cells Naturally, it can restrain cancer cells. So what happened to the body after the supplement of glutamine? The results showed that glutamine is selective between healthy cells and cancer cells. That is, it increases the antioxidant capacity of healthy cells but decreases the antioxidant capacity of cancer cells. Glutamine reacts on cells but with different functionality. Then why can the antioxidant capacity of healthy cells be increased?

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsBecause the glutamine is the precursor of antioxidant, and after the supplement of glutamine, it can compose some antioxidant substances and increase the antioxidant capacity of the healthy cells. Then why does it result contrary on cancer cells? First, cancer cells cling to acidic environment. If the cell environment is acidic, it will decrease the composition rate of the antioxidant substances. When the cancer cells are not able to be protected by the antioxidant substances, they will be easily killed during radiotherapy or chemotherapy. After the supplement of glutamine, it increases the antioxidant capacity of healthy cells, but decease the antioxidant capacity of cancer cells, and makes the cancer cells to be eliminated more easily.

Skip to 3 minutes and 3 secondsIn terms of the result mentioned above, the supplement of glutamine provides restraint action towards cancer cells. However, this article is a very new research finding. It discusses that glutamine has different effects towards different cancer cells. The one showed on the left is the normal condition, and the green represents organs and tissues that produce glutamine, including lung and muscle tissue in our body. It will generate a lot of glutamine to supply for other organs and tissues in our body that need glutamine. Which organ or tissue uses the glutamine? The mucosal cells in intestine. Mucosal cells in intestine will use a lot of glutamine as the main source of energy. Liver and kidney also require glutamine.

Skip to 3 minutes and 59 secondsThis is the supply and demand under the normal situation. However, if you look at the picture on the right, its green color becomes stronger. This means when the body suffers from cancer, some organs in the body will produce glutamine including kidney, liver, lung, and muscle tissue. More glutamine will be produced but for what reason? It is for cancer tissues. As you can see, the color in the intestine becomes lighter. Originally, intestine cells will use a lot of glutamine but when there are cancer cells existing in the body, the volume that body consumes becomes less and most of the glutamine is used by the cancer cells. But we just said that glutamine is selective and restrain breast cancer.

Skip to 4 minutes and 56 secondsWhy the result is contrary? We need to know that the application capacity of glutamine by various cancer cells is different. In certain researches, such as for breast cancer cells, breast cancer cells application capacity towards glutamine is weaker. Research studies also discusses other cancers, including head and neck cancers. Nowadays, many studies of treatments to cancer focus on the metabolic pathway for glutamine. Glutamine metabolism in the body involves with enzyme reaction. Many treatment methods for cancers are to restrain these enzyme reaction during glutamine metabolism. and to disable these cancer cells to apply glutamine. Now we learn that some cancer cells can use glutamine as energy source. Therefore, providing patients with lots of glutamine will actually increase the growth of cancer cells.

Skip to 6 minutes and 6 secondsVarious cancer cells will have different application capacity towards glutamine. For certain type of cancers, the supplement of glutamine promotes its growth. Currently, we are unable to thoroughly understand the application capacity towards glutamine by all types of cancers. Therefore, under the circumstances, it is not suggested to supply additional glutamine when there are active cancer cells in our body.

Clinical Trial of Glutamine Supplementation on Critical Illness

Can cancer cells use glutamine as energy source too? In this video, Prof. Yeh will talk about the research results.

Since glutamine is the energy source of fast proliferation cells, will the supplement of glutamine promote the proliferation of cancer cells? According to animal experiments in the past, the supplement of glutamine restrains the growth of breast cancer cells because it promotes the activity of the natural killer cell in our body. It is selective between healthy cells and cancer cells. Prof. Yeh will explain the mechanic of how natural killer cell is capable of eliminating the cells of breast cancer.

When the cancer cells are not able to be protected by the antioxidant substances, they will be easily killed during radiotherapy or chemotherapy. After the supplement of glutamine, it increases the antioxidant capacity of healthy cells but decreases the antioxidant capacity of cancer cells and makes the cancer cells to be eliminated more easily.

In terms of the result mentioned above, the supplement of glutamine provides restraint action towards cancer cells.

However, in another experiment of research from differenct cancers. If providing it a lot of glutamine, it will actually increase the growth of cancer cells. Various cancer cells will have different application capacity towards glutamine. In some cases, it promotes cancer cells’ growth.

Currently, we are unable to thoroughly understand the application capacity towards glutamine by all the cancers. A lot of treatment to cancer at the moment focuses on the metabolic pathway for glutamine. Many treatment methods for cancers are to restrain the glutamine.

Therefore, under current situation, it is not suggested to supplement glutamine when there are active cancer cells in our body.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Nutrition: Eating to Live Well

Taipei Medical University