Counting my blessings as I head into this Thanksgiving holiday, I’m struck by a new one: I’m thankful for LFcinB25, or lactoferrin B25, a peptide fragment derived from cow’s milk which recently was discovered to have stomach cancer-killing properties. 

Shortly before Thanksgiving 25 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with the stomach cancer that would take her life just four short months later, leaving behind my father, my 10-year-old sister and myself, just barely teenaged, to pick up the pieces. Now, thanks to researchers at Taiwan’s National Ilan University, this virulent killer seems to be one significant step closer to meeting its match.

Researchers watched via microscope as LFcinB25 migrated to the cell membrane of the gastric cancer cells within an hour of exposure. Within 24 hours, the cancer cells had shrunken in size and lost their ability to adhere to surfaces, as reported in the December edition of the Journal of Dairy Science. 

“Gastric cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide,” says Wei-Jung Chen, of the Department of Biotechnology and Animal Science of National Ilan University, Taiwan Republic of China. “In general, the main curative therapies for gastric cancer are surgery and chemotherapy, which are generally only successful if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. Novel treatment strategies to improve prognosis are urgently needed.”

Indeed. Knowing that scientists are looking to milk for these strategies means I can enjoy Thanksgiving with my own two daughters, grateful for one more way that dairy can keep them — and their mother — strong and healthy.