Arginine deprivation as a strategy for cancer therapy: An insight into drug design and drug combination

Yu Zhang, Sai Fung Chung, Suet Ying Tam, Yun Chung Leung, Xiao Guan

Research output: Journal article publicationShort surveyAcademic researchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Extensive studies have shown that cancer cells have specific nutrient auxotrophy and thus have much a higher demand for certain nutrients than normal cells. Amino acid deprivation has attracted much attention in cancer therapy with positive outcomes from clinical trials. Arginine, as one of the conditionally essential amino acids, plays a pivotal role in cellular division and metabolism. Since many types of cancer cells exhibit decreased expression of argininosuccinate synthetase and/or ornithine transcarbamylase, they are auxotrophic for arginine, which makes arginine deprivation an accessible choice for cancer treatment. Arginine deiminase (ADI) and human arginase (hArg) are the two major protein drugs used for arginine deprivation and are undergoing many clinical trials. However, the clinical application of ADI and hArg is facing some common problems, including their short half-lives, immunogenicity and inconsistent production, which underlines the importance of improving these drugs using protein engineering techniques. Thus, we systematically review the latest studies of protein engineering and anti-cancer studies based on in vitro, in vivo and clinical models of ADI and hArg, and we include the latest studies on drug combinations consisting of ADI/hArg with chemotherapeutic drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-70
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Arginine deiminase
  • Arginine deprivation therapy
  • Human arginase
  • Protein engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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