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VCU researchers studying protein involved in milk production to treat breast cancer

RICHMOND, Va. -- Breastfeeding is a part of life for most new moms.

When women are pregnant, their prolactin levels are through the roof, but that level drops dramatically after birth.

"Prolactin is what tells the breasts to make milk,” Dr. Charles Clevenger with VCU Massey Cancer said.

Since the 90s, Clevenger has been one of the first doctors in the world to look at the hormone prolactin and breast cancer.

“Prolactin played a pretty big role causing breast cancer to grow and spread,” Clevenger said.

Dr. Charles Clevenger

Since those early studies and more lab work, Clevenger has discovered a protein involved in milk production called cyclophilin and how it could be used for breast cancer treatments.

"By blocking the prolactin receptor from working, we can kill breast cancer cells and we can prevent it from growing and spreading," Clevenger said.

Clevenger says he hopes what's being done in the labs will eventually translate to the patient and becomes another treatment option for breast cancer patients.

To learn more about the research, click here.

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