Does it work?
No controlled clinical studies have investigated the effects of colostrum use in cancer patients and three case series are available.
The earliest identifiable study, a case series, was conducted by Lewison and colleagues (1960).15 Seventeen women with advanced breast cancer received 1.1 litre of bovine colostrum per day for periods between 5 and 595 days. All patients were in a palliative or preterminal treatment situation without further options of conventional cancer therapy. Eleven of them received colostrum from cows that were injected with a homogenate of human breast cancer tissue in the udder. At the end of the observation period, two patients were alive and 15 had died. In no patient a remission of the cancer disease was seen. Ten patients reported periods of subjective improvement. Study authors evaluated their attempt of “passive immunization therapy” with bovine colostrum as “unsuccessful”.
Inoue and colleagues (1998) reported on a case series with 9 patients suffering from severe graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD) after bone marrow transplantation.3 Patients received 20 ml of human colostrum for 5 consecutive days. Clinical stage of GvHD improved in 6 patients.
Another case series investigated the use of a bovine immunoglobulin product (IgG) that was concentrated from the colostrum of cows immunized with killed Candida albicans germs.16 Out of 59 bone marrow transplant recipients, 19 received orally 10 g of the colostrum concentrate as dissolved powder containing 4.2 g of IgG. The product was given from day 4 before bone marrow transplantation to day 28 after transplantation. Ten of the IgG-treated patients showed a high level of Candida colonization as evaluated in mouth wash prior to colostrum administration. In 7 of these 10 patients, a reduction in colonization burden was seen during colostrum treatment.
The results of all three case series cannot be generalised to other patients or settings and it remains open whether the observed improvements in subjective and clinical status or the reduction of Candida colonization can be attributed to the colostrum intake. Furthermore, the latter study did not evaluate the intended clinical effect of this putative prophylactic measure against invasive candida infections, i.e. the reduction of these infections. According to current guidelines for the treatment of bone marrow transplant patients, antimycotic prophylaxis does not lead to a reduction of mortality in transplant recipients.17 Therefore the clinical relevance of the findings of the Candida study seems at present questionable.
CitationGabriele Dennert, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Colostrum [online document]. http://www.cam-cancer.org/CAM-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Colostrum. January 29, 2015.
Summary assessed as up to date in January 2015 by Barbara Wider.
Summary assessed as up to date in September 2013 by Barbara Wider.
Summary first published in September 2012, authored by Gabriele Dennert.
- Inoue M, Okamura T, Sawada A, Kawa K: Colostrum and severe gut GVHD. Bone Marrow Transplantation 1998; 27: 402-403.
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- Lewison EF, Brown RW, Thomas JW, Sykes JF, Ovary Z: “Protective” colostrum in the treatment of patients with advanced breast cancer. Archives of Surgery 1960; 81: 169/997-176/1004.
- Sloan Kettering Center: Bovine colostrum. http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/bovine-colostrum. (last accessed 6 July 2012)
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- Tokuyama H, Tokuyama Y: Bovine colostric transforming growth factor-beta-like peptide that induces growth inhibition and changes morphology of human osteogenic sarcoma cells (MG-63). Cell Biology International Reports 1989; 13: 251-258.
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- Lewison and colleagues (1960)
- Tollemar J, Gross N, Dolgiras N, Jarstrand C, Ringdén O, Hammarström L: Fungal prophylaxis by reduction of fungal colonization by oral administration of bovine anti-Candida antibodies in bone marrow transplant recipients. Bone Marrow Transplantation 1999; 23: 283-290.
- http://www.dgho-onkopedia.de/onkopedia/leitlinien/infektioese-komplikationen-nach-hochdosistherapie (last accessed 6 July 2012)
- Otto W, Najnigier B, Stelmasiak T, Robins-Browne RM: Randomized control trials using a tablet formulation of hyperimmune bovine colostrum to prevent diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in volunteers. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 2011; 46: 862–868. doi: 10.3109/00365521.2011.574726
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