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Nutrition. 1991 May-Jun;7(3):185-8.

Arginine metabolism in benign and malignant disease of breast and colon: evidence for possible inhibition of tumor-infiltrating macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Aberdeen University, United Kingdom.


L-Arginine concentrations have been measured in benign and malignant breast and colonic neoplasms and compared with the macrophage content and arginase activity within these tumors. Our study confirmed previous findings of elevated plasma arginine concentrations in malignancy and demonstrated that tissue free-arginine concentrations are substantially higher in malignant (mean 9.8 mumol/g protein) than benign (2.8 mumol/g protein) breast disease. Similarly, malignant colonic neoplasms had a higher free-arginine concentration than benign colonic polyps (14.0 vs. 7.0 mumol/g protein). The macrophage content of the malignant tumors was also significantly higher than in the benign conditions (278 vs 29/high power field in breast disease), but despite this, there was no detectable difference in the arginase activity. These findings suggest that tumor-infiltrating macrophages are not able to produce this enzyme, and/or its activity is inhibited within the tumor cell milieu. The differences observed in the arginine concentrations within these lesions has potentially important implications for the pathway of arginine metabolism and local host antitumor responses.

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