NK-Lysin, Antibacterial Substance In Chicken, Could Fight Cancer

Could one key to fighting cancer lie in a chicken?

Perhaps, new research suggests.

A naturally occurring substance in chicken seems to be effective in fighting cancer cells, according to the new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chickens naturally produce a substance called NK-lysin, which works as an antibacterial agent. Researchers have identified two genetic variations of this substance that are able to fight disease. And one of those two kinds is particularly good at fighting cancer cells.

"It took all of us by surprise," study researcher James Womack, a professor of veterinary pathobiology at Texas A & M University, said in a statement.

Womack worked with Seoul National University in Korea scientists to look at the kinds of NK-lysin present in chickens, and their effects. They examined 62 White Leghorn chickens and 53 Cornish chickens.

"This could lead to other steps to fight cancer or in developing ways to prevent certain infections or even diseases," Womack said in the statement. "It's another door that has been opened up. We are looking at similar studies right now to see if this is possible with cattle."

Recently, a study from University of Missouri researchers showed that a substance in celery and parsley could have powerful effects against certain breast cancer cells.

Specifically, they found that the substance -- called apigenin -- seems to have an effect on certain kinds of breast cancer tumors associated with the hormone progestin (given along with estrogen to women as part of hormone replacement therapy for menopause, and is known to increase the risk of breast cancer).