Human colostrum and breast milk contain high levels of tnf-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)
The benefits of breast milk are well known, but why breastfeeding protects against various forms of cancer remains a mystery. This study found high levels of cancer-fighting TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) in human milk, which might be one source of breast milk’s anticancer activity. Researchers took samples of colostrum, the first milk available to newborns, and of mature breast milk from new mothers. Researchers then obtained samples of blood from healthy women, and various ready-to-feed infant formulas. The colostrum, mature breast milk, blood and formula were then all tested to measure their level of TRAIL. The researchers found that colostrum and breast milk contained 400- and 100-fold, respectively, higher levels of TRAIL than blood. No TRAIL was detected in the formula.
“The important role of breastfeeding in the prevention of certain childhood cancers, such as lymphoblastic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and neuroblastoma, has been previously demonstrated,” wrote the authors. “However, endogenous soluble TRAIL represents a strong candidate to explain the overall biological effect of breastfeeding against cancer.”
Background: TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a pleiotropic cytokine, which plays a key role in the immune system as well as in controlling the balance of apoptosis and proliferation in various organs and tissues.
Objective: To investigate the presence and levels of soluble TRAIL in human colostrum and milk.
Methods: The levels of soluble human TRAIL were measured in human colostrum (day 2 after delivery) and breast milk (day 5 after delivery). The presence of TRAIL was also measured in infant formula.
Results: Levels of soluble TRAIL in the colostrum and mature human milk were, respectively, at least 400 and 100 fold higher than those detected in human serum. No TRAIL was detected in formula.
Conclusion: Human soluble TRAIL is present at extremely high levels in human colostrum and human milk and might have a significant role in mediating the anti-cancer activity of human milk.
Davanzo, R., Zauli, G., Monasta, L., Vecchi Brumatti, L., Abate, M., Ventura, G., Rimondi, E., Secchiero, P., & Demarini, S. (2012). Human Colostrum and Breast Milk Contain High Levels of TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand (TRAIL) Journal of Human Lactation DOI: 10.1177/0890334412441071