06
Mar

How milk is helping tackle cancer

You might not expect much of a link between research into milk and milk products, and the fight against cancer, but understanding one may ultimately lead to better ways to tackle the other.

The crucial link is the way mammals produce milk in the first place, and scientists in Australia have now discovered a single protein they think is responsible, in a study published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

A team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute made the discovery of the MCL-1 protein, which increases just after giving birth and seems to be essential to mammals' milk production.

"Based on this discovery, it is reasonable to believe that every mammal requires MCL-1 for milk production and, ultimately, the survival of their offspring," said Professor Jane Visvader.

It is also fair to say we owe plenty to this single protein for the availability of all kinds of milk and milk products, too - but its significance could reach even further than that.

Professor Visvader explained that MCL-1 is also linked with the immune system and cells found in cancerous tissue, making it a possible way to track tumour cells when targeting breast cancer with medicines and other treatments.

Ultimately, this means a greater understanding of how it works could lead to new methods of combating breast cancer in all mammals.

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