Studies carried out by researchers at Lund University and the University of Gothenburg reveal that 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. This has raised hopes that it can be developed into medication for cancer care in the future.


Discovered by chance, HAMLET came to light when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk and was announced to the public in the middle of this week. 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, although researchers speculate that HAMLET can form in the acidic environment of the babies' stomachs.

Lab experiments prove that HAMLET kills 40 different types of cancer. Researchers are now proceeding to study its effect on skin cancer, tumors in the mucous membranes and brain tumors. Importantly, HAMLET kills only cancer cells and does not affect healthy cells.

Studying the integration of the substance entails that researchers at the University of Gothenburg are focusing on how HAMLET can be taken up into tumor cells. Researchers Roger Karlsson, Maja Puchades and Ingela Lanekoff are attempting to gain an in-depth understanding of how the substance interacts with cell membranes.