It has long been known that pregnancy can reduce a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer later in life. One of the reasons for this is the protein alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) which is made by the liver of the fetus. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) begins to show in the mother’s blood around the 12th week of pregnancy.
Thomas T. Andersen of Albany Medical College in New York has been doing some interesting research in this area. His group has synthesized a peptide* which they call ‘AFPep’ that mimics the same activity as AFP.
Then they implanted breast cancer cells into mice and then gave them AFPep. The result? It stopped the growth of the cancer cells and reduced the number of tumors by 23%!
And there’s more! When both AFPep and tamoxifen were administered to the mice – the tumors were reduced by 77%!
Thomas T. Andersen is currently trying to find a pharmaceutical company that will sponsor human clinical trials of this potential treatment for human breast cancers. These types of clinical trials can take 3-5 years before they can be completed and a new drug approved, so it won’t be available for quite a while. If is does get approved it could be used either to prevent or treat breast cancer.
* a peptide is a short chain of amino acids. Proteins are made of amino acids too, but peptides are smaller chains of amino acids usually without the full function of a normal protein.
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