Gut doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2012-303715
  • Colon cancer
  • Original article

Prevention and treatment of colon cancer by peroral administration of HAMLET (human α-lactalbumin made lethal to tumour cells)

Open Access
  1. Catharina Svanborg
  1. Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Glycobiology, Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catharina Svanborg, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Glycobiology, Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Lund University, Sölvegatan 23, Lund 223 62, Sweden; catharina.svanborg{at}
  • Received 9 September 2012
  • Revised 28 November 2012
  • Accepted 14 December 2012
  • Published Online First 24 January 2013


Background Most colon cancers start with dysregulated Wnt/β-catenin signalling and remain a major therapeutic challenge. Examining whether HAMLET (human α-lactalbumin made lethal to tumour cells) may be used for colon cancer treatment is logical, based on the properties of the complex and its biological context.

Objective To investigate if HAMLET can be used for colon cancer treatment and prevention. ApcMin/+ mice, which carry mutations relevant to hereditary and sporadic human colorectal tumours, were used as a model for human disease.

Method HAMLET was given perorally in therapeutic and prophylactic regimens. Tumour burden and animal survival of HAMLET-treated and sham-fed mice were compared. Tissue analysis focused on Wnt/β-catenin signalling, proliferation markers and gene expression, using microarrays, immunoblotting, immunohistochemistry and ELISA. Confocal microscopy, reporter assay, immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, ion flux assays and holographic imaging were used to determine effects on colon cancer cells.

Results Peroral HAMLET administration reduced tumour progression and mortality in ApcMin/+ mice. HAMLET accumulated specifically in tumour tissue, reduced β-catenin and related tumour markers. Gene expression analysis detected inhibition of Wnt signalling and a shift to a more differentiated phenotype. In colon cancer cells with APC mutations, HAMLET altered β-catenin integrity and localisation through an ion channel-dependent pathway, defining a new mechanism for controlling β-catenin signalling. Remarkably, supplying HAMLET to the drinking water from the time of weaning also significantly prevented tumour development.

Conclusions These data identify HAMLET as a new, peroral agent for colon cancer prevention and treatment, especially needed in people carrying APC mutations, where colon cancer remains a leading cause of death.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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