Unfortunately, most cases of prostate cancer are not diagnosed until they've reached advanced stages. The disease generally is slow growing and treatment is slow to produce results. L-arginine, also referred to simply as arginine, is a semi-essential amino acid that triggers your body to produce protein. Arginine also causes blood vessels to widen. While arginine supplements are used to treat various forms of cancers, the amino acid is suppressed when treating prostate cancer.(Image: yacobchuk/iStock/Getty Images)
Arginine is needed for your body to produce nitric oxide, the chemical that causes your blood vessels to widen so blood can flow effectively. Arginine is used to treat conditions that improve with increased blood flow, such as chest pains, erectile dysfunction, clogged arteries, vascular disease and headaches, according to the Mayo Clinic. Doctors attempt to reduce the amount of arginine in your body when treating prostate cancer.
Arginine deprivation therapy may reduce tumors, according to the Cancer Research website. The therapy has proved successful when chemicals are inserted in the body to inhibit or reduce arginine production. Chloroquine begins to destroy certain cancer cells within hours of administration and has been used since about 1970. Newer breakthroughs in arginine disruption allow doctors to isolate an enzyme in your blood that reduces arginine production and decreases tumor size. Chloroquine also has shown promise in treating lymphoma and other types of cancer when used in conjunction with chemotherapy.
Since L-arginine improves blood flow, it is sometimes used to treat the side effects of chemotherapy by reducing inflammation. However, never take amino acid supplements without your doctor's permission because of the varying effects they can have on your cells. For example, arginine may actually increase the size of your tumor if you have prostate cancer. By contrast, arginine supplementation effectively decreases the size of tumors in some kinds of cancer because it boosts your immune system.
Arginine supplements can have side effects, including diarrhea, low blood pressure, gout and allergies. Another disease that arginine seems to worsen is herpes, according to Medline Plus. The amino acid causes the herpes virus to multiply. However, there are no major side effects associated with depriving your body of excessive arginine. Although continued deprivation is not recommended, you don't have to worry about muscle wasting or other protein deficiencies if your doctor suggests trying the treatment for prostate cancer.REFERENCES & RESOURCES MayoClinic.com: Arginine Medline Plus: L-Arginine Cancer Research: Arginine Deiminase as a Novel Therapy for Prostate Cancer Life Extension: Arginine and Fish Oil May Help Cancer Patients