Studies carried out by researchers at Lund University and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden reveal that a substance found in breast milk can kill cancer cells. Although the special substance, known as HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor 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 cancer of the bladder who were treated with the substance excreted dead cancer cells in their urine after each treatment, which has given rise to hopes that it can be developed into medication for cancer care in the future.
HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. Laboratory experiments have shown that HAMLET kills 40 different types of cancer. Researchers are now going on to study its effect on skin cancer, tumors in mucous membranes and brain tumors. HAMLET kills only cancer cells and does not affect healthy 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. Their findings were recently published in the journal PLoS One (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0009384).