Glutamine and Cancer

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Abstract

Objective

This overview on glutamine and cancer discusses the importance of glutamine for tumor growth, summarizes the alterations in interorgan glutamine metabolism that develop in the tumor-bearing host, and reviews the potential benefits of glutamine nutrition in the patient with cancer.

Summary Background Data

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and tissues. It is essential for tumor growth and marked changes in organ glutamine metabolism are characteristic of the host with cancer. Because host glutamine depletion has adverse effects, it is important to study the regulation of glutamine metabolism in cancer and to evaluate the impact of glutamine nutrition in the tumor-bearing state.

Methods

Data from a variety of investigations on glutamine metabolism and nutrition related to the host with cancer were compiled and summarized.

Results

Numerous studies on glutamine metabolism in cancer indicate that many tumors are avid glutamine consumers in vivo and in vitro. As a consequence of progressive tumor growth, host glutamine depletion develops and becomes a hallmark. This glutamine depletion occurs in part because the tumor behaves as a “glutamine trap” but also because of cytokine-mediated alterations in glutamine metabolism in host tissues. Animal and human studies that have investigated the use of glutamine-supplemented nutrition in the host with cancer suggest that pharmacologic doses of dietary glutamine may be beneficial.

Conclusion

Understanding the control of glutamine metabolism in the tumor-bearing host not only improves the knowledge of metabolic regulation in the patient with cancer but also will lead to improved nutritional support regimens targeted to benefit the host.

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