Milk Thistle slows the ability of colorectal cancer cells to grow.

milk thistleThe University of Colorado released a new study revealing that a compound extracted from Milk Thistle has the ability to slow colectoral cancer cells. The study used stem cells as a model to investigate the impact of milk thistle on cancer cells. Silibinin is a purified substance derived from milk thistle seeds and acts as a chemopreventive agent.

The compound, called silibinin purified from milk thistle, was injected into different types of stem cells and slows the ability of colorectal cancer stem cells to grow the disease. When stem cells from tumors grown in silibinin-fed conditions were re-injected into new models, the cells failed to develop tumors.

“It’s very simple: tumors from mice that were initially fed silibinin had fewer cancer stem cells, were smaller, had lower metabolisms and showed decreased growth of new blood vessels. Importantly, when these cancer stem cells from tumors in mice fed silibinin were re-injected into new mice, we found these stem cells had lost their potential to repopulate even in the absence of silibinin exposure,” said Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CU Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Specifically, the group used sorted colorectal cancer stem cells to grow tumors in mice that were either fed or not fed with silibinin. Tumor growth was measured by visible size, MRI scan and measurement of tumor metabolism (glucose use). These tumors cells either unsorted or sorted for cancer stem cells were then re-injected in mice to measure their growth pattern in next generations in the absence of silibinin feeding.

“We have been deeply involved in this line of research that extends from silibinin to its chemopreventive properties in colorectal cancer, and the current study takes another important step: we see both a likely chemopreventive and a therapeutic mechanism and the result of this mechanism in animal models,” said Sushil Kumar, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Agarwal Lab.


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