A substance found in breast milk can biologically transform or s0-call kill cancerous body or blood cells, reveal studies carried out by researchers at Lund University and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Although the special substance, known as HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells), was discovered in breast milk several years ago, it is only now that it has been possible to test it on humans.
Patients with a cancerous bladder who were treated with the substance excreted dead or disorganized cancer cells in their urine after each treatment, which has given rise to hopes that it can be developed into supplement for cancer care in the future.
HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. Further studies showed that HAMLET comprises a protein and a fatty acid that are both found naturally in breast milk. So far, however, it has not been proven that the HAMLET complex is spontaneously formed in the milk. Laboratory experiments have shown that HAMLET kills or biologically transform 40 different types of cancerous cells, and the researchers are now going on to study its effect on skin cancer, tumours in the mucous membranes and brain tumours. Importantly, HAMLET transforms only cancerous cells and does not affect healthy body cells.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg are focusing on how HAMLET can be taken up into tumour cells. The researchers, Roger Karlsson, Maja Puchades and Ingela Lanekoff, are attempting to gain an in-depth understanding of how the substance interacts with cell membranes, and their findings were recently published in the prestigious journal PLoS One.