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Journal of Cancer Prevention


J Cancer Prev 2021; 26(4): 237-243

Published online December 30, 2021

© Korean Society of Cancer Prevention

Role of Branched-chain Amino Acid Metabolism in Tumor Development and Progression

Min Kyu Jung1,* , Akinkunmi Paul Okekunle2,3,* , Jung Eun Lee2,3 , Mi Kyung Sung4 , Yun Jeong Lim5

1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kyungpook National University Hospital, Daegu, 2Department of Food and Nutrition, College of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, 3Research Institute of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, 4Department of Food and Nutrition, Sookmyung Women’s University, Seoul, 5Department of Internal Medicine, Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital, Dongguk University College of Medicine, Goyang, Korea

Correspondence to :
Yun Jeong Lim, E-mail:,
*These authors contributed equally and are joint first authors ofr this work.

Received: September 13, 2021; Revised: September 30, 2021; Accepted: November 8, 2021

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), isoleucine, leucine and valine, are essential amino acids with vital roles in protein synthesis and energy production. We reviewed the fundamentals of BCAA metabolism in advanced cancer patients. BCAAs and various catabolic products act as signalling molecules, which activate mechanisms ranging from protein synthesis to insulin secretion. Recently, BCAA metabolism has been suggested to contribute to cancer progression. Of particular interest is the modulation of the mTOR activity by BCAAs. There are likely multiple pathways involved in BCAA metabolism implicated in carcinogenesis. Understanding the mechanism(s) underlying altered BCAAs metabolism will significantly advance the current understanding of nutrient involvement in carcinogenesis and direct future studies to unravel the significance of BCCA metabolites in tumor development and progression.

Keywords: Amino acids, branched-chain, Isoleucine, Leucine, Valine, Neoplasm

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