June 27, 2006

Milk Thistle Drug Blocks Lung Cancer in Mice

By Martha Kerr

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Silibinin, a drug derived from milk thistle, destroys lung cancer in mice, investigators at the University of Colorado, Denver report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Lead investigator Dr. Rana P. Singh told Reuters Health, "We have been studying milk thistle components, silymarin and silibinin, to examine their efficacy and mechanisms against different...cancers for over a decade."

In the current study, Singh's team injected mice with a chemical called urethane to induce lung cancer. The animals then received diets containing different doses of silibinin.

"We obtained pure silibinin from Sigma Chemical Co., and silibinin diets were commercially prepared at room temperature and air dried. We did not use milk thistle dietary supplements which are available for human consumption," Singh said.

Mice fed silibinin had fewer large lung tumors than untreated mice. Further analysis showed that silibinin seemed to reduce the number of blood vessels that provide nutrients to the tumors, allowing them to grow.

Singh added that further laboratory studies of silibinin for lung cancer are now being done. "We expect soon after that clinical trials with silibinin in lung cancer patients will be planned."

Human trials of silibinin are already underway for the treatment of prostate cancer.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, June 21, 2006.