A compound in breast milk has been found to destroy many skin warts, raising hopes it might also prove effective against cervical cancer and other lethal diseases caused by the same virus.
Skin warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, which is extremely widespread. Swedish researchers found that when the breast-milk compound — since named HAMLET — is applied to the skin, it kills virally infected cells in warts resistant to conventional treatments.
“This may have relevance for the treatment of cervical cancer,” because virally infected and cancer cells are similar, said lead researcher Dr. Catharina Svanborg, professor of clinical immunology at Lund University in Lund, Sweden.
The researchers hope to start small-scale testing of the compound soon on women with cervical cancer.
“Any long-term potential for any devastating diseases is very speculative at this stage” but should be followed up, said Catherine Laughlin, chief of the virology branch in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
There are 130 known types of the human papilloma virus. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by two sexually transmitted types. Other types cause skin and genital warts, squamous cell skin cancer and lesions in the throat that are deadly in rare cases.