Silibinin and STAT3: A natural way of targeting transcription factors for cancer therapy

Cancer Treat Rev. 2015 Jun;41(6):540-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2015.04.008. Epub 2015 Apr 27.


Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is constitutively activated in many different types of cancer and plays a pivotal role in tumor growth and metastasis. Retrospective studies have established that STAT3 expression or phospho-STAT3 (pSTAT3 or activated STAT3) are poor prognostic markers for breast, colon, prostate and non-small cell lung cancer. Silibinin or silybin is a natural polyphenolic flavonoid which is present in seed extracts of milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Silibinin has been shown to inhibit multiple cancer cell signaling pathways in preclinical models, demonstrating promising anticancer effects in vitro and in vivo. This review summarizes evidence suggesting that silibinin can inhibit pSTAT3 in preclinical cancer models. We also discuss current strategies to overcome the limitations of oral administration of silibinin to cancer patients to translate the bench results to the bed side. Finally, we review the ongoing clinical trials exploring the role of silibinin in cancer.

Keywords: Cancer; Legasil®; STAT3; Silibinin; Siliphos; Silybin; Silymarin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Phosphorylation
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / physiology
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / pharmacokinetics
  • Silymarin / pharmacology
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin