Dietary essential amino acids (EAA) could have a key role in novel nutritional approaches in prevention of muscle loss in patients with cancer, thereby improving outcomes, according to an article published online ahead of print in the Annals of Oncology.

EAA have a high anabolic potential in patients with cancer, independent of disease trajectory, systemic inflammatory response, and nutritional status. 

Conventional approaches in nutritional supplements suggest an attenuated anabolic response. They produce partial or no success in inducing protein accretion in advanced cancer.

Continue Reading

Muscle wasting has serious negative consequences in patients with cancer and generation of an anabolic response is critical. EAA have anabolic properties in other wasting diseases, however, data are scarce in advanced cancer.

A total of 13 patients with advanced (stage 3 and 4) non-small cell lung cancer and 11 healthy, age-matched subjects received either 14 g of free EAA with high leucine levels (EAA/leucine) or a balanced amino acid mixture containing both EAA and non-EAA, according to a randomized, double-blind, crossover design.

Researchers measured protein synthesis and whole body breakdown, as well as the difference between protein synthesis and breakdown (net protein anabolism). 

RELATED: Immunotherapies Shine at ASCO Annual Meeting

Results showed increased levels of both protein synthesis and net protein anabolism following administration of EAA/leucine rather than the balanced amino acid mixture (P<0.001), in those with and without cancer.

Both groups showed a significant linear relationship between net protein anabolism and the amount of EAA available in the systemic circulation (R2: 0.85, P<0.001). Weight/muscle loss or survival time did not influence the correlation.

High leucine levels in the EAA/leucine mixture did not produce anabolic benefits. Neither group showed anabolic resistance or attenuated anabolic potential.


  1. Engelen MPK, Safar, AM Bartter T, et al. High anabolic potential of essential amino acid mixtures in advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Ann Oncol. 2015. [epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdv271.