(RxWiki News) If you strolled by it in a field, you'd probably think the purple flower was a weed. Milk thistle has in fact been used for thousands of years in herbal remedies. If recent animal studies pan out, its treatment uses may be expanded to cancer.
A recent study involving mice found that silibinin, a major compound in milk thistle, stopped the spread of lung cancers. This is the first time the natural extract has shown to be beneficial in a carefully controlled study.
"Quitting smoking is still the best way to prevent lung cancer."
COX2 and iNOS are enzymes involved with the body's inflammation response to wounds, and they also help tumors grow. They are produced after the cells go through a complex signal chain.
STAT1 and STAT3 are proteins found along the signal chain that manage cell growth and lead to the production of the harmful COX2 and iNOS.
Targeting and stopping STAT1 and STAT3 messes up the chain that leads to COX2 and iNOS and ultimately the growth of lung tumors.
Alpna Tyagi, Ph.D investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, explains that silibinin blocks the signals that lead to the expression of COX2 and iNOS.
For the study, Tyagi and colleagues compared the results of the milk thistle component to lung cancer drugs currently being investigated in clinical trials.
They found that silibinin not only blocked COX2 and iNOS, but also the movement of existing lung cancer cells.
Tyagi says the study demonstrated that STAT1 and STAT3 could be therapeutic targets for lung cancer treatment.
Further, he concludes that "naturally-derived products like silibinin may be as effective as today's best treatments."
This research is published in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis.