Silibinin (Milk Thistle) potentiates ethanol-dependent hepatocellular carcinoma progression in male mice

Cancer Lett. 2012 Dec 29;326(1):88-95. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2012.07.028. Epub 2012 Aug 1.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a global health burden with limited treatment options and poor prognosis. Silibinin, an antioxidant derived from the Milk Thistle plant (Silybum marianum), is reported to exert hepatoprotective and antitumorigenic effects in vitro and in vivo by suppressing oxidative stress and proliferation. Using a DEN-initiated mouse model of HCC, this study examined the effects of dietary silibinin supplementation alone, or in combination with chronic ethanol consumption on HCC progression. Our data demonstrate silibinin exerted marginal hepatoprotective effects in early stages of hepatocarcinogenesis but, when co-administered with ethanol, exacerbated the promotional effects of ethanol in HCC bearing mice, but only in males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Disease Progression
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Milk Thistle
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / adverse effects*
  • Tumor Burden / drug effects


  • Antioxidants
  • Silymarin
  • Ethanol
  • Silybin