The Cancer Chicken Dance

Anticancer substance found in barnyard chickens

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Do you know the chicken dance? Make a beak with your hands and quake them four times, fold your arms into wings and flap them as you jut your head out while pecking and wiggle downward shaking your tail feathers. 

Turns out this awkwardly moving creature may have some anticancer offerings.

Chickens have a naturally occurring substance known as NK-lysin that can fight off infections, diseases and cancers.

"Talk to your doctor about cancer screenings."

A team of international scientists, led by James Womack, Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University, made this discovery.

Researchers looked for the antibacterial NK-lysin in 62 White Leghorn and 53 Cornish chickens. They identified two genetic versions of NK-lysin and were shocked by what they found.

Both types of NK-lysin have impressive disease-fighting capabilities, and one was able to peck away at cancer cells.

“It took all of us by surprise,” said Womack, co-author of the study. “One of the genetic variations shows it has the ability to fight against cancer cells much more aggressively than the other variation. We certainly were not looking at the cancer side of this, but there it was.”

The team conducted a DNA sequence of the two breeds of chickens that are found throughout the world.

“This could lead to other steps to fight cancer or in developing ways to prevent certain infections or even diseases. It’s another door that has been opened up," Womack said.

Womack will be expanding this research to other animals.

This research was published in the July 10 issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 12, 2012
Last Updated:
July 12, 2012