Affiliation: Ambryx Inc., 1200 Columbia Ave., Riverside, California, 92507, USA.
The progression of cancer involves multiple changes that alter intracellular signaling to promote cell proliferation. Subsequent remodeling of the tumor microenvironment enhances metastasis by manipulating the immune system. Research in the past decade has shown that milk proteins and peptides are often multi-functional, exerting activities such as anti-microbial, immunomodulatory, cancer cell apoptosis, anti-metastasis, and antioxidant effects. Several milk-derived biologics, such as HAMLET (human α-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells) and the human recombinant form of lactoferrin, already demonstrated promising results in clinical trials. Lactoferricin peptide analogs are in early clinical development as antimicrobial agents and cancer immunotherapies. In addition, milk proteins and peptides are well tolerated and many exhibit oral bioavailability; thus they may complement standard therapies to boost overall success in cancer treatments. Lactoferrin, colostrum, and specific milk-derived peptide fractions are currently being developed as clinical nutrition for cancer prevention and chemotherapy protection. This review highlights the potential applications of milk proteins and peptides as pharmaceutical drug candidates and clinical nutrition in the overall management of cancer.