Scientists have found that lactoferrin—a whey protein found in milk— could be an anticancer agent for breast cancer. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein that has been reported to inhibit several other types of cancer. According to a study published in the January 2011 issue of the American Dairy Science Association’s Journal of Dairy Science, scientists in Portugal found that breast cancer cells treated with lactoferrin decreased the cancer cells’ viability by 47-54 percent and decreased the growth rates of the cancer cells by 40-64 percent. “There is overwhelming evidence that biologically active food components are key environmental factors affecting the incidence of many chronic diseases,” said Lígia Raquel Rodrigues, author of the study and member of the American Dairy Science Association. “However, because the full extent of such components in our diet isn’t known, nor is the understanding of their mechanisms of action, we undertook this study for a closer look.”

While additional studies will be needed to establish a clear role for lactoferrin as a potential tool in fighting breast cancer, the results from this study suggest that lactoferrin interferes with some of the most important steps involved in cancer growth.

The science particulars
In this particular study, the effects of bovine milk lactoferrin on human breast cancer HS578T and T47D cells were studied. The cells, which are cultured in a laboratory, were either untreated or treated with lactoferrin concentrations ranging from 0.125 to 125 μM. A 12.5 μM concentration of lactoferrin decreased the cell viability of HS578T and T47D by 47 and 54%, respectively, and increased apoptosis (cell death) about 2-fold for both cell lines. Proliferation rates decreased between 40 and 64% for HS578T and T47D, respectively. For the T47D line, cell migration decreased in the presence of the protein. PD


—From ADSA news release