In her background research of the literature, Dr. Svanborg discovered a piece of evidence from 1995 that lent support to her hypothesis that human milk can protect against cancer. The study showed that the risk of childhood lymphoma is nine times higher in bottle-fed than breast-fed infants. She and her students wondered if there was some connection between the two situations.
Svanborg and her group began to analyze breast milk more thoroughly and eventually discovered that the actual component of breast milk that was killing cancer cells is a protein called alpha-lactalbumin (sometimes called alpha-lac). In January 1999, they finally released results demonstrating that in the acid environment of an infant’s stomach, the normal alpha-lac protein changed shape and transformed into a killer of cancer cells (or other potentially harmful cells, such as pneumonococcus bacteria). Her research group named the altered protein, HAMLET, for Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells. By genetically altering bacterial cells, they were able to mass-produce the factor as is commonly done in the production of human insulin.
Now that they had produced HAMLET in sufficient quantities for research, it was ready to be tested in animals with tumors and then on human subjects with cancer. The team believed that the substance should not be toxic to animals because it was a naturally occurring protein in breast milk. If found to be useful in cancer treatment, it would represent a great advance over the toxic cancer drugs currently in use with their high risk of negative side effects. –
… If the alpha-lac (HAMLET) factor can kill cancer cells in humans, then it will not be long before the pharmaceutical companies will get involved, but they must be convinced that the work is worth their attention. Often, naturally occurring drug products are labeled “orphan drugs” and are not marketed to the general public. Would this alpha-lac component of human breast milk be treated as such? – buffalo.edu
… Pauline Sakamoto of Mothers’ Milk Bank said they have sold breast milk to 60 cancer patients. “It may not mean that the cancer is cured, but we’re seeing a dramatic change in the quality of life for some of them,” she said. Howard Cohen says it worked for him after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Instead of traditional treatments, he turned to purchased breast milk that he mixes with fruit and yogurt.
“If you drink it straight, it has a bit of a yucky, oily under taste,” he said.
Some Swedish research says a protein in mother’s milk can kill cancer cells in Petri dishes. “That doesn’t translate to being effective in humans,” Dr. Michelle Qaqundah said. Dr. Qaqundah is the Director of Naturopathic Medicine at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. While there are some natural alternative cancer treatments, she said breast milk has a long way to go.
“There’s a potential for that, but there’s really no way of knowing until we study it in humans,” she said.
Dr. Pamela Berens, with the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, said she is concerned that adult use of donor milk could drain an already limited supply. “Right now we don’t have enough breast milk for our donor milk banks for the premature infants who we have such wonderful data about the benefits,” she said.
Proven benefits or not, Cohen said he is cancer free and plans to keep drinking his special milk. “Initially I was drinking it every day. I cut back to two bottles a week,” he said. A doctor’s prescription is required for donor breast milk. It can cost as much as $3 an ounce and is not covered by insurance for adult use. – cbs3.com
Some evidence from an NIH site:
… alpha-lactalbumin, a principal protein of milk. Alpha-lactalbumin forms the regulatory subunit of the lactose synthase (LS) heterodimer and beta 1,4-galactosyltransferase (beta4Gal-T1) forms the catalytic component. Together, these proteins enable LS to produce lactose by transfering galactose moieties to glucose. As a monomer, alpha-lactalbumin strongly binds calcium and zinc ions and may possess bactericidal or antitumor activity. A folding variant of alpha-lactalbumin, called HAMLET, likely induces apoptosis in tumor and immature cells. – nih.gov
Drug companies have not yet found a way to patent breasts and sell human milk for $3000 per ounce…. but perhaps they are working on it.