PURPOSE: Amino acids are involved in many physiological processes in the body and serve as building blocks of proteins which are the main component of muscle mass. Often patients with cancer experience muscle wasting, which is associated with poor outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to discuss amino acid kinetics in cancer, review the evidence on the response to nutrition in patients with cancer, and to give recommendations on the appropriate level of amino acid or protein intake in cancer. Current evidence shows that amino acid kinetics in patients with cancer are disturbed, as reflected by increased and decreased levels of plasma amino acids, an increased whole body turnover of protein and muscle protein breakdown. A few studies show beneficial effects of acute and short-term supplementation of high protein meals or essential amino acid mixtures on muscle protein synthesis.
CONCLUSION: Cancer is associated with disturbances in amino acid kinetics. A high protein intake or supplementation of amino acids may improve muscle protein synthesis. Future research needs to identify the optimal level and amino acid mixtures for patients with cancer, in particular for those who are malnourished.