Scientists are sharing new research that continues to connect the gut to disease development. Experts warn that common sources of protein, both in animals and plants, could raise the risk of prostate cancer.
For the first time, researchers have found that having elevated levels of a metabolite called phenylacetylglutamine (PAGIn) was associated with a greater risk of aggressive prostate cancer. The metabolite is created after the gut digests plant- and animal-based protein such as meat, beans, and soy. The findings suggest modifying one’s diet could reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Study results could also help doctors diagnose and potentially prevent lethal prostate cancer.
“We found that men with higher levels of certain diet-related molecules are more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer,” says Dr. Sharifi, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Genitourinary Malignancies Research Center in a media release. “As we continue our research in this area, our hope is that one day these molecules can be used as early biomarkers of prostate cancer and help identify patients who can modify their disease risk by making dietary and lifestyle changes.”
The study involved looking at any changes in specific dietary nutrients and metabolites —byproducts made when a substance breaks down in the gut — in a person’s blood before a prostate cancer diagnosis. They measured and compared serum levels of healthy patients with those who later received a prostate cancer diagnosis and died from the disease.
Men with high levels of a metabolite called PAGIn were two to three more likely to receive a lethal prostate cancer diagnosis. Having higher levels of two nutrients, choline and betaine, increased the risk for aggressive prostate cancer. Choline and betaine are common in red meat, egg yolks, and high-fat dairy products.
While the team has previously associated both the two nutrients and gut metabolites with increased risk of heart disease and stroke, this is the first time that gut microbiome metabolites have been related to prostate cancer outcomes. In those studies, PAGIn competed for the same receptors as beta-blockers which are commonly prescribed to lower blood pressure and heart problems. Beta blockers’ potential to stop the metabolite’s activity may also help with treating prostate cancer.
“New insights are emerging from large-scale clinical datasets that show use of beta blockers is also associated with lower mortality due to prostate cancer,” says Dr. Sharifi, who is a staff physician in Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Cancer Biology. “We will continue to work together to investigate the possible mechanisms linking PAGln activity and prostate cancer disease processes in hopes of identifying new therapeutic targets for our patients.”
The study is published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.