It's been known for some time that a component of breastmilk, called human alpha-lactalbubin made lethal to tumor cells (HAMLET for short!) causes cancer cells to die.
One press report explains:
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 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.
Laboratory experiments have shown that HAMLET kills 40 different types of cancer, and the researchers are now going on to study its effect on skin cancer, tumours in the mucous membranes and brain tumours. Importantly, HAMLET kills only cancer cells and does not affect healthy cells.
A Swedish study out last week explored exactly how the cancer-killing function works. It found that, "HAMLET binding alters the morphology of the membrane and compromises its integrity, suggesting that membrane perturbation could be an initial step in inducing cell death."
In the same week, clinical trials of an acne treatment which uses a synthetic form of lauric acid, a component of breastmilk, were announced. It seems like just a matter of time before HAMLET will be used in cancer treatment.