Nonessential amino acid metabolism in breast cancer

Adv Biol Regul. 2016 Sep;62:11-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jbior.2016.01.001. Epub 2016 Jan 21.


Interest in studying cancer metabolism has risen in recent years, as it has become evident that the relationship between cancer and metabolic pathways could reveal novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Metabolic starvation therapy is particularly promising due to its low toxicity. Nonessential amino acids are promising metabolites for such therapy because they become essential in many tumor cells, including breast cancer cells. This review will focus on four nonessential amino acid metabolism pathways: glutamine-glutamate, serine-glycine, cysteine, and arginine-proline metabolism. Recent studies of these amino acids have revealed metabolic enzymes that have the potential to be effective as cancer therapy targets or biomarkers for response to metabolic starvation therapy. The review will also discuss features of nonessential amino acid metabolism that merit further investigation to determine their relevancy to breast cancer treatment.

Keywords: Amino acid; Breast cancer; Cancer therapy; Tumor metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine / deficiency
  • Breast Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cysteine / deficiency
  • Diet Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Food Deprivation / physiology*
  • Glutamic Acid / deficiency
  • Glutamine / deficiency
  • Glycine / deficiency
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Proline / deficiency
  • Serine / deficiency


  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Serine
  • Arginine
  • Proline
  • Cysteine
  • Glycine