Antitumour Effects

In a variety of experimental tumour models and cell systems, silymarin and silybin St Mary's thistle 1041

have been found to have both cancer preventive and anticancer activity.

In vitro studies have shown that silymarin possesses exceptionally high cancer-preventive effects in different mouse skin carcinogenesis models and affords strong anticancer effects in human skin, cervical, prostate, bladder and breast carcinoma cells (Vinh et al 2002, Zi & Agarwal 1999, Zi et al 1998a,b, Zhao et al 1999, Zhu et al 2001). Recent investigation has also identified that silibinin is biologically active against hepatocellular carcinoma cells (Varghese et al 2005).

Two studies involving the use of topical silymarin in hairless mice before chemical carcinogenesis and photocarcinogenesis have shown a protective effect that resulted in a statistically significant decrease in tumour incidence, tumour multiplicity, and tumour volume per mouse in the treated groups (Wright et al 2006). Furthermore, this chemopreventive effect was found to be dose-dependent in one of the studies, in which the topical application ranged from 3 to 12 mg per mouse, with the 12-mg application conferring the most protection.

It appears that several mechanisms are responsible, besides an antioxidant effect. Anti-angiogenic activity has been observed in vitro, and is likely to be involved (Jiang et al 2000). Additionally, in vivo research has demonstrated chemopreventive effects for silymarin, by inhibiting endogenous tumour promoter TNF-alpha (Zi et al 1997). In regard to skin cancer, silymarin provides substantial protection against different stages of UVB-induced carcinogenesis, possibly via its strong antioxidant properties (Katiyar et al 1997) and a selective action on NF-kappa-B activation (Saliou et al 1999).

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