Molecular mechanisms of silibinin-mediated cancer chemoprevention with major emphasis on prostate cancer

AAPS J. 2013 Jul;15(3):707-16. doi: 10.1208/s12248-013-9486-2. Epub 2013 Apr 16.


Despite advances in early detection, prostate cancer remains the second highest cancer mortality in American men, and even successful interventions are associated with enormous health care costs as well as prolonged deleterious effects on quality of patient life. Prostate cancer chemoprevention is one potential avenue to alleviate these burdens. It is a regime whereby long-term treatments are intended to prevent or arrest cancer development, in contrast to more direct intervention upon disease diagnosis. Based on this intention, cancer chemoprevention generally focuses on the use of nontoxic chemical agents which are well-tolerated for prolonged usage that is necessary to address prostate cancer's multistage and lengthy period of progression. One such nontoxic natural agent is the flavonoid silibinin, derived from the milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum), which has ancient medicinal usage and potent antioxidant activity. Based on these properties, silibinin has been investigated in a host of cancer models where it exhibits broad-spectrum efficacy against cancer progression both in vitro and in vivo without noticeable toxicity. Specifically in prostate cancer models, silibinin has shown the ability to modulate cell signaling, proliferation, apoptosis, epithelial to mesenchymal transition, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis, which taken together provides strong support for silibinin as a candidate prostate cancer chemopreventive agent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Milk Thistle*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / chemistry
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin