Silybin and Silymarin--New and Emerging Applications in Medicine

Curr Med Chem. 2007;14(3):315-38. doi: 10.2174/092986707779941159.

Abstract

This review critically surveys the literature published mainly within this millennium on the new and emerging applications of silybin (pure, chemically defined substance) and silymarin (flavonoid complex from Silybum marianum - milk thistle seeds). These compounds used so far mostly as hepatoprotectants were shown to have other interesting activities, e.g. anticancer and canceroprotective and also hypocholesterolemic activity. These effects were demonstrated in a large variety of illnesses of different organs, e.g. prostate, lungs, CNS, kidneys, pancreas and also in the skin protection. Besides the cytoprotective activity of silybin mediated by its antioxidative and radical-scavenging properties also new functions based on the specific receptor interaction were discovered. These were studied on the molecular level and modulation of various cell-signaling pathways with silybin was disclosed--e.g. NF-kappaB, inhibition of EGFR-MAPK/ERK1/2 signaling, activity upon Rb and E2F proteins, IGF-receptor signaling. Proapoptotic activity of silybin in pre- and/or cancerogenic cells and anti-angiogenic activity of silybin are other important findings that bring silymarin preparations closer to respective application in the cancer treatment. Discovery of the inhibition and modulation of drug transporters, P-glycoproteins, estrogenic receptors, nuclear receptors by silybin and some of its new derivatives contribute further to the better understanding of silybin activity on the molecular level. Silymarin application in veterinary medicine is reviewed as well. Recent works using optically pure silybin diastereomers clearly indicate extreme importance of the use of optically active silybin namely in the receptor studies. Significance of silymarin and its components in the medicine is clearly indicated by an exponential growth of publications on this topic--over 800 papers in the last 5 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1 / drug effects
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*

Substances

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 1
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin