UC Denver Logo A milk thistle extract called silibinin recently stirred an air of excitement in the medical terrain. With a highly innovative approach, experts from the University of Colorado Cancer Center discovered that silibinin can decrease the number and size of lung tumors by inhibiting inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). The enzyme iNOS apparently is overexpressed in certain types of cancer.

While conducting experiments on mice, it was noted that silibinin allegedly reduces the size and number of lung tumors. This enzyme probably produces nitric oxide, which acting as a free radical can pave way for cancer development. After 12 weeks of treatment in mice with tumors that contained iNOS, silibinin reportedly declined tumor size by 72 percent. Among mice whose lung cancer did not express iNOS, silibinin presumably had no effect.

Scientists also registered the benefit of using micro-CT to optimize treatment. Micro-CT images purportedly distinguish lung tumors from surrounding tissue even without any contrast agent. Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and lead investigator along with the colleagues conclude that iNOS can be targeted by silibinin for controlling lung cancer.

The research is published in the February 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.