Could Breastmilk Help Fight Cancer? 4 Facts About HAMLET

Could Breastmilk Help Fight Cancer? 4 Facts About HAMLET

Breastmilk is a remarkable substance.

It contains healthy bacteria to helps babies develop a healthy gut microbiome, over 100 different prebiotics (food for the good bacteria in the gut), a host of anti-infective factors, hormones, stem cells, enzymes, growth factors, anti-inflammatory factors and more.

Of course, it also contains all the nutrients (e.g. fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals) that babies need too.

Science is only beginning to unravel some of the complexities of breastmilk.

For example, a protein in breastmilk called lactoferrin may help scientists fight antibiotic resistance.

Stem cells in breastmilk may provide scientists with a new ways of harvesting them to research treatment for various conditions, for example spinal injuries, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

In addition, could breastmilk help fight cancer?

Well, science suggests it might!

And, it could be due to a compound called HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells).

Here are 5 facts about HAMLET.

#1: HAMLET Is Derived From Most Adundant Protein In Breastmilk

Laboratory experiments have revealed that when the most predominant protein in breastmilk, alphalactalbumin, is mixed with a fatty acid called oleic acid at low pH, HAMLET is formed.

#2: HAMLET Can Attack And Kills Cancer Cells

HAMLET attacks cancer cells in many ways.

Firstly it evades the cancer cell’s outer defence mechanisms.

Secondly it targets the cancer cells ‘power house’ (the mitochondria part of it) and the ‘instruction manual’ (the nucleus part of it).

In doing this, the cancer cell’s energy source is cut off, and it gets programmed to die in a process referred to as apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Astonishingly, tests on animals and humans have shown that HAMLET can kill over 40 different types of cancers.

For example, tests on mice have shown that HAMLET limited the development of brain and bladder cancer and prevented the development of colon cancer in genetically susceptible mice.

One small human trial revealed that HAMLET may be helpful at treating bladder cancer. Patients with bladder cancer who received injections of HAMLET experienced a reduction in tumour size after a few days.

HAMLET has also shown promise in successfully treating skin papillomas in humans.

#3: HAMLET Leaves Normal Healthy Cells Unharmed

Importantly, HAMLET only targets and kills cancer cells.

It leaves normal healthy cells unharmed.

Hence it has none of the awful side effects that chemotherapy has.

#4: HAMLET May Form In Breastfed Babies’ Stomachs

It has been hypothesised that HAMLET may form in the acidic environment of breastfed babies’ stomachs.

This is because the acid pH in the stomach of breastfed babies could promote the formation of HAMLET.

This may be a mechanism by which breastfeeding contributes to reducing the risk of childhood cancer such as leukaemia and lymphomas.

#5: It May Not Only Be HAMLET

Breastmilk may contain other important factors to help reduce the risk of cancer.

For example, in 1994 a study found lactoferrin in breastmilk inhibited growth of tumours in mice.

What a truly remarkable substance breastmilk is.

In the words of Dr Stephen Buescher (an infectious disease specialist) human milk is not just food, “it is a highly specialised infant support system.”

I wonder what science will continue to unveil about it.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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