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IMAGE: When taken as a supplement, lactoferrin, a protein found in milk, can alleviate the taste and smell disorders that plague cancer patients. view more 

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Patients undergoing cancer treatment confront a number of well-documented side effects.

Chemotherapy and other cancer therapies can wreak havoc on the taste buds and olfactory senses, depriving recipients of the intricate interplay between taste and smell that is critical to grasping flavors and enjoying foods. Over time, taste and smell abnormalities (TSA) can lead to a loss of appetite and anorexic behaviors, compromising patients’ ability to recuperate from the disease.

In a new paper published in the journal Food & Function, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researchers Susan Duncan and Aili Wang investigated the feasibility of lactoferrin, a highly bioactive protein found in saliva and milk, as a treatment for TSA. Their findings could bring relief to millions of patients undergoing cancer treatment.

“The underlying molecular mechanisms of TSA are not well-understood,” said Duncan, associate director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology. “The prevailing symptom described by patients undergoing chemotherapy is a persistent metallic flavor or aftertaste, with or without food

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