Lactoferrin milk protein can help treat cancer patients

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

There have been no previous established remedies to reliably prevent or treat TSA. Pic: ©GettyImages/krisanapong detraphiphat
There have been no previous established remedies to reliably prevent or treat TSA. Pic: ©GettyImages/krisanapong detraphiphat

Related tags: Milk, Protein, Chemotherapy, Research

New research has revealed the effectiveness of lactoferrin in cancer patients when taken as a supplement. It helps alleviate taste and smell abnormalities (TSA) that often come as a result of chemotherapy treatments.

After undergoing chemotherapy, patients can experience a loss of or damage to their senses of taste and smell. This affects their ability to enjoy and identify food, leading to a loss of appetite, poor nutrition and even depression.

Most people who suffer from TSA report a “persistent metallic flavor or aftertaste, with or without food intake,”​ for hours, days or even months following chemotherapy.

According to new research from the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, there have been no established remedies to reliably prevent or treat TSA. Researchers Susan Duncan and Aili Wang led the investigation of lactoferrin’s success as a supplement.

Lactoferrin is a highly bioactive protein, typically found in saliva and both human and cow’s milk. It's a part of the body's immune system, particularly crucial in infants.

"Our research shows that daily lactoferrin supplementation elicits changes in the salivary protein profiles in cancer patients - changes that may be influential in helping to protect taste buds and odor perception,"​ said Duncan.

“This research could help us develop TSA-targeted biomarkers and strategies for improving quality of life during chemotherapy.”

The team at Virginia Tech observed 19 cancer patients experiencing TSA. Along with a group of healthy subjects, they took three lactoferrin tablets per day at 250 mg per tablet for 30 days. Saliva was collected and analyzed at three points during the study and the findings were published in the journal Food & Function.

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