The antiproliferative effect of kefir cell-free fraction on HuT-102 malignant T lymphocytes

Clin Lymphoma Myeloma. 2009;9 Suppl 3:S198-203. doi: 10.3816/CLM.2009.s.012.


Kefir is produced by adding kefir grains (a mass of proteins, polysaccharides, bacteria, and yeast) to pasteurized milk; it has been shown to control several cellular types of cancer, such as Sarcoma 180 in mice, Lewis lung carcinoma, and human mammary cancer. Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is the causative agent of adult T-cell leukemia, which is a fatal disease with no effective treatment. The current study aims at investigating the effect of a cell-free fraction of kefir on HuT-102 cells, which are HTLV-1-positive malignant T-lymphocytes. Cells were incubated with different kefir concentrations: the cytotoxicity of the compound was evaluated by determining the percentage viability of cells. The effect of all the noncytotoxic concentrations of kefir cell-free fraction on the proliferation of HuT-102 cells was then assessed. The levels of transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha mRNA upon kefir treatment were then analyzed using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Finally, the growth inhibitory effects of kefir on cell cycle progression and/or apoptosis were assessed by flow cytometry. The maximum cytotoxicity recorded at 80 microg/microL for 48 hours was only 43%. The percent reduction in proliferation was very significant, dose and time dependent, and reached 98% upon 60-microg/microL treatment for 24 hours. Kefir cell-free fraction caused the downregulation of TGF-alpha, which is a cytokine that induces the proliferation and replication of cells. Finally, a marked increase in cell cycle distribution was noted in the pre-G1 phase. In conclusion, kefir is effective in inhibiting proliferation and inducing apoptosis of HTLV-1-positive malignant T-lymphocytes. Therefore, further in vivo investigation is highly recommended.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell-Free System
  • Cultured Milk Products / metabolism*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic*
  • Human T-lymphotropic virus 1 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / virology
  • Milk
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / metabolism


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha