The effect of bovine milk lactoferrin on human breast cancer cell lines

J Dairy Sci. 2011 Jan;94(1):66-76. doi: 10.3168/jds.2010-3629.


The evidence that biologically active food components are key environmental factors affecting the incidence of many chronic diseases is overwhelming. However, the full extent of such components in our diet is unknown, as is our understanding of their mechanisms of action. Beyond the interaction of these food components with the gut and intestinal immune functions, whey proteins such as lactoferrin are being tested as anticancer agents. Lactoferrin is an iron-binding protein that has been reported to inhibit several types of cancer. In the present work, the effects of bovine milk lactoferrin on human breast cancer HS578T and T47D cells were studied. The cells were either untreated or treated with lactoferrin concentrations ranging from 0.125 to 125 μM. Lactoferrin decreased the cell viability of HS578T and T47D by 47 and 54%, respectively, and increased apoptosis about 2-fold for both cell lines. Proliferation rates decreased by 40.3 and 63.9% for HS578T and T47D, respectively. For the T47D line, cell migration decreased in the presence of the protein. Although the mechanisms of action are not fully known, the results gathered in this work suggest that lactoferrin interferes with some of the most important steps involved in cancer development.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cattle
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactoferrin / pharmacology*
  • Milk / chemistry*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Lactoferrin