Recent progress

The protein-lipid complex alpha1-oleate, derived from HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumor cells), is identified as a molecular entity with significant therapeutic potential. Structural characterization of the complex and results of a successful placebo-controlled clinical trial are presented.

Bladder cancer therapy using a conformationally fluid tumoricidal peptide complex


Partially unfolded alpha-lactalbumin forms the oleic acid complex HAMLET, with potent tumoricidal activity. Here we define a peptide-based molecular approach for targeting and killing tumor cells, and evidence of its clinical potential ( NCT03560479). A 39-residue alpha-helical peptide from alpha-lactalbumin is shown to gain lethality for tumor cells by forming oleic acid complexes (alpha1-oleate). Nuclear magnetic resonance measurements and computational simulations reveal a lipid core surrounded by conformationally fluid, alpha-helical peptide motifs. In a single center, placebo controlled, double blinded Phase I/II interventional clinical trial of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, all primary end points of safety and efficacy of alpha1-oleate treatment are reached, as evaluated in an interim analysis. Intra-vesical instillations of alpha1-oleate triggers massive shedding of tumor cells and the tumor size is reduced but no drug-related side effects are detected (primary endpoints). Shed cells contain alpha1-oleate, treated tumors show evidence of apoptosis and the expression of cancer-related genes is inhibited (secondary endpoints). The results are especially encouraging for bladder cancer, where therapeutic failures and high recurrence rates create a great, unmet medical need.

Bladder cancer therapy without toxicity—A dose-escalation study of alpha1-oleate


Potent chemotherapeutic agents are required to counteract the aggressive behavior of cancer cells and patients often experience severe side effects, due to tissue toxicity. Our study addresses if a better balance between efficacy and toxicity can be attained using the tumoricidal complex alpha1-oleate, formed by a synthetic, alpha-helical peptide comprising the N-terminal 39 amino acids of alpha-lactalbumin and the fatty acid oleic acid. Bladder cancer was established, by intravesical instillation of MB49 cells on day 0 and the treatment group received five instillations of alpha1-oleate (1.7-17 mM) on days 3 to 11. A dose-dependent reduction in tumor size, bladder size and bladder weight was recorded in the alpha1-oleate treated group, compared to sham-treated mice. Tumor markers Ki-67, Cyclin D1 and VEGF were inhibited in a dose-dependent manner, as was the expression of cancer-related genes. Remarkably, toxicity for healthy tissue was not detected in alpha1-oleate-treated, tumor-bearing mice or healthy mice or rabbits, challenged with increasing doses of the active complex. The results define a dose-dependent therapeutic effect of alpha1-oleate in a murine bladder cancer model.

Peptide–Oleate Complexes Create Novel Membrane-Bound Compartments


A challenging question in evolutionary theory is the origin of cell division and plausible molecular mechanisms involved. Here, we made the surprising observation that complexes formed by short alpha-helical peptides and oleic acid can create multiple membrane-enclosed spaces from a single lipid vesicle. The findings suggest that such complexes may contain the molecular information necessary to initiate and sustain this process. Based on these observations, we propose a new molecular model to understand protocell division.

Graphic illustration of the mode of action of HAMLET/Alpha1H in the cell (describing the steps towards tumour cell death). Source: Hamlet Pharma.