Timely Blog in Honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Study Says Breast Milk May Kill Cancer

I’m about to tell you something so amazing that it will blow your mind. So, hold on and get ready for a wild ride!

Most of us already know that human breastmilk is an astonishing living substance that protects both baby and mother from illnesses and infections. Well, now, an accidental discovery in Sweden is beginning to show us just how phenomenal human breastmilk really is...

Breastmilk May Be Able to Kill Cancer Cells

Professor Catharina Svanborg MD PhD is an award-winning Professor of Clinical Immunology at Lund University, Sweden and Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. She and her team were embarking on studying human breastmilk to try and discover new antimicrobials, with a hope of discovering new antibiotics.

They were mixing bacteria and cancer cells in the test tube and discovered that a naturally occurring molecule contained within the milk did something that no one could have predicted – it killed the tumour cells!


This clever ground-breaking molecule was appropriately named Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumour cells or HAMLET for short.

Now, you would think that finding a cancer-killing molecule was a revolutionary discovery that just couldn’t get any better, but, HAMLET had other ideas! This tiny molecule is the molecule that just keeps on giving!

“What else can it do?” I hear you ask… well, hold on to your chair because HAMLET kills cancer cells without causing harm to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Watch this video to see Prof. Catharina Svanborg talking about the amazing discovery of HAMLET.

Traditional cancer therapies, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, affect the whole body and often go hand and hand with unwelcome side effects such as hair loss, nausea, vomiting and dry red or itchy skin.

An Effective Cancer Treatment Without the Side Effects?

Imagine a therapy that could eliminate the unwanted side effects while still kicking cancer to the curb. In comes HAMLET – an eagle-eyed molecule on a mission seeking out the bad guys and leaving the good guys unharmed.

Research is underway looking at how HAMLET can be turned into a drug to treat different types of cancers and the prognosis is looking positive.

Despite Progress, Cancer is Still a Huge Killer

Colon cancer accounts for approximately 600,000 deaths each year worldwide. In animal models, HAMLET reduces colon cancer progression by a staggering 60%.

Glioblastomas are a highly invasive brain tumour and make up 60% of all primary brain tumours. Unfortunately, they are often difficult to treat and inaccessible to remove surgically. As a result, sufferers have a mean survival time of approximately one year.

Hamlet treatment has been shown to kill brain tumour cells in biopsies. In animal studies, it reduces tumour growth and prolongs survival.

230,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed each year in the US, Japan and the five largest EU countries. In clinical studies HAMLET causes bladder cells to die, become detached from that bladder wall and be excreted out of the body in the urine.

Is Human Breastmilk a Medicine of the Future?

It appears that human breastmilk could become part of the medicine of the future. Instead of reaching for antibiotics and traditional forms of beating cancers we may well be reaching for medication that has been developed from human breastmilk. If Prof. Svanborg and her team continue researching and discovering more hidden secrets of human breastmilk, it certainly will.

Drug development however takes many years and some people with cancer are choosing alternative therapies like drinking breastmilk in an attempt to delay the progression of their illness.

Jenny Jones, a Queensland midwife and lactation consultant tells SBS The Feed in an interview called Breast Medicine that she has been drinking breastmilk for five years in order to combat her multiple myeloma.

She started to drink breastmilk to boost her immune system while undergoing a bone marrow transplant and found that she got through the transplant without infection. She states "I was absolutely sure that breastmilk was going to be my lifeline and it turns out to be so."

During this year’s Medela Asia Pacific Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium, Jenny and Prof. Svanborg were introduced in the hopes they could discuss the research and its life-changing benefits.

Have a look at Jenny talking about drinking human breastmilk to compliment her cancer treatment from 9.15

This is Just the Beginning!

There are still so many benefits to human breastmilk that we don’t yet understand. We really are just at the beginning of discovering all that it has to offer.

Ongoing research is vital so that we can continue to unlock its hidden gems. Who knows what the next discovery will be and where it will lead us? What we do know now is that “Mothers milk is everyday amazing.”

Are you surprised to hear that a recent study showed that breastmilk may be an effective tool at helping to treat certain types of cancers? As a society, should we invest more in investigating the amazing properties of breastmilk? Let’s have a chat here or on the Medela Australia Facebook page!

Editor’s note: nothing in this article should be considered medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.