In 1995, a research group at Lund University led by Professor Catharina Svanborg discovered a component in human breast milk that kills tumor cells without harming healthy, mature cells. Additional studies and experiments determined that a common protein in human milk known as alpha-lactalbumin is responsible for this effect when bound with oleic acid. The new biological complex is called Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to tumor cells, also known as HAMLET.
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Initial findings showed that HAMLET killed numerous types of cancers using harmless molecules from breast milk. It was confirmed to be safe in proof-of-concept studies in animals. A clinical trial with bladder cancer patients used breast milk. Patients responded very quickly with no apparent side effects. They rapidly shed large numbers of tumor cells via urine.
The project moved into drug development where researchers identified peptides and fatty acids to create a compound with activity similar to what was observed using breast milk to treat tumors. Another trial was conducted in humans diagnosed with bladder cancer by treating bladder tumors. Further studies focused on developing a drug substance made from different synthetic compounds that would work in the same way as HAMLET.
HAMLET Pharma began in 1999 to develop drugs based on HAMLET for the treatment and prevention of cancer. Currently, efforts to fund the production of the synthetic form of HAMLET are underway.
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