Milestone in cancer research - this substance from breast milk kills tumor cells

Milestone in cancer research - this substance from breast milk kills tumor cells

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HAMLET is able to kill cancer cells

More and more people around the world are suffering from various forms of cancer. This makes it clear that the treatment and diagnosis of cancer urgently need to be improved. Researchers found that a substance found in breast milk can kill cancer cells.

A joint study by Lund University and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that a substance found in breast milk is able to kill cancer cells. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "PLOS ONE".

HAMLET kills bladder cancer cells

Although the substance known as HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumor cells) was discovered in breast milk a few years ago, it has only now been possible to test it on humans. Patients with bladder cancer who were treated with the substance excreted dead cancer cells in the urine after the treatment, which raised hope that HAMLET could be expanded into drugs for the treatment of cancer in the future.

Hamlet was discovered by accident

HAMLET was originally discovered by accident when researchers studied the antibacterial properties of breast milk. Further studies then showed that HAMLET contains a protein and a fatty acid, both of which are naturally found in breast milk. So far, however, it has not been possible to demonstrate that the HAMLET complex forms spontaneously in milk. Nevertheless, it is speculated that HAMLET can develop in the acidic environment of the baby's stomach, the researchers report.

40 different types of cancer cells were killed

Laboratory experiments have shown that HAMLET kills cells from 40 different types of cancer, and researchers are now investigating the effects on skin cancer, mucous membrane tumors and brain tumors. It is important to mention that HAMLET only kills cancer cells and does not affect healthy cells.

More research is needed

In their research, the experts from the University of Gothenburg focused particularly on how HAMLET can be absorbed by tumor cells. They try to understand the interaction of the substance with cell membranes. More research is needed, but it remains to be hoped that HAMLET can eventually be used to manufacture drugs that kill cancer cells in the human body. This would be a big step in combating the global cancer risk. (as)

More interesting articles on this topic can be found here:

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  • Cancer research: immune cells can predict the chances of a cure for breast cancer

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Ann-Kristin Mossberg, Maja Puchades, √ėyvind Halskau, Anne Baumann, Ingela Lanekoff et al .: HAMLET Interacts with Lipid Membranes and Perturbs Their Structure and Integrity, in PLOS ONE (query: 19.07.2019), PLOS ONE

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