Controversial breast milk therapy for cancer

May 27, 2009 5:56:50 AM PDT
A father is drinking his daughter's breast milk to fight his cancer. "My first reaction was why not?" Tim Browne said during a report on "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her -- as long as Monty didn't mind."

Monty is Tim Browne's baby grandson.

It may be hard to believe, but Tim Browne is talking about sharing his daughter's breast milk with his grandson Monty in hopes of harnessing it's curative effects to fight terminal cancer.

"Dad has referred to Monty as his milk brother," Georgia Browne says.

"I do feel a special bond with Georgia and with Monty," Tim Browne added.

Nearly 2 years ago the 67-year-old retired teacher and musician was diagnosed with colon cancer. He went in for surgery one week before his daughter's wedding.

"I wasn't worried about the cancer at that point it was the wedding," Tim Browne said, "I managed to get out in time to walk her down the isle and I was able to give my father's speech, which was a great pleasure that was."

But a month, later devastating news the cancer had spread to Tim's liver and lymph nodes. It was now terminal. Surgery was ruled out and Tim began a course of chemotherapy. Desperate to help, Tim's daughter Georgia came up with an idea while watching a show on breast milk.

"It was prostate cancer this man had and he'd been drinking breast milk everyday," Georgie Browne says. "Anyway this guy really swore by the breast milk and said that it had reduced his tumors."

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, children who are breast-fed suffer fewer illnesses because they receive the mother's antibodies. They're protected from diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, even the flu. Plus, recent studies show breast-feeding may reduce the risk of childhood cancer.

"There's promising research that would indicate that in the future the solution for not only preventing cancer but even treating and curing cancer might be human milk," says Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter of Cooper University Hospital.

But it's still considered a highly alternative treatment. For most adults breast milk is expensive, requires a prescription and is difficult to find. That's where milk banks, like Christiana Care in Delaware, come in. There are only 6 in the United States that provide milk to adults. "In the past we have had 1 to 2 inquiries a month," says Dr. Debra Tuttle of the Mother's Milk Bank.

For adult patients who can get the milk - like Tim Browne whose lactating daughter put a couple of ounces aside for him each day - the biggest issue is how to drink it.

"I was quite shocked!" Georgia Browne says. "Mom told me that he just poured it on his cornflakes."

"I found the milk not unpleasant, but slightly pungent and oily," Tim Browne said, "But once it was mixed with cows milk I couldn't taste it."

Tim says his cancer showed a slight improvement during his breast milk regimen, though its unclear if it was the milk or the chemo at work. He has stopped being able to drink the milk due to nasuea from other Medications and he is not cured but he is firmly convinced this alternative treatment has reaped many benefits.

"It's very difficult to tell if something is working or not," Tim Browne said. "What we feel comfortable about is the process of doing it - has been amazing and has helped all of our family."

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