Over the past two millennia, milk thistle has been used to treat conditions of the liver and gallbladder.
Now, according to the authors of a recent study conducted at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, a compound known as silibinin that is derived from the plant may also be a complementary or alternative medicine for lung cancer.
The team of scientists explained that the substance is able to interrupt a chain of signals in cells that ultimately leads to inflammation and tissue damage. In a laboratory trial, they observed that silibinin prevents the production of two enzymes, STAT1 and STAT2, which allow DNA to bind with certain proteins and continue in the harmful chain of events that leads to the damaging enzymes COX2 and iNOS.
"This relatively nontoxic substance — a derivative of milk thistle, called silibinin — was able to inhibit the upstream signals that lead to the expression of COX2 and iNOS," said researcher Alpna Tyagi, Ph.D.
Moreover, the study authors said that silibinin was able to halt the spread of existing lung cancer cells, suggesting that it may be superior to current drugs.