Targeting STAT3 with silibinin to improve cancer therapeutics

Cancer Treat Rev. 2017 Jul:58:61-69. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2017.06.003. Epub 2017 Jun 23.


Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) has a prominent role in mediating resistance to conventional chemo-/radio-therapies and modern targeted drugs. While a number of STAT3 inhibitors have been shown to enhance the efficacy of therapeutic agents in vitro, the majority of them have yet to enter clinical evaluation mostly because of lack of efficacy issues. Silibinin is the main component of the silymarin complex, a standardized extract obtained from the seeds of the milk thistle herb Silybum marianum. This review summarizes current evidence supporting the ability of silibinin to function as a natural down-modulator of STAT3 activity. We examine the reported capacity of silibinin to reduce the toxicity of cancer treatments and to reverse tumor cell resistance via STAT3 inhibition. We also briefly review our clinical data in cancer patients treated with oral nutraceutical products containing silibinin. The beneficial effects of silibinin might accelerate the design of strategies aimed to overcome and prevent the emergence of STAT3-mediated cancer drug resistance in clinical settings.

Keywords: Cancer; Chemotherapy; Legasil®; Radiotherapy; STAT3; Silibinin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Radiation Tolerance / drug effects
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Silybin
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • STAT3 protein, human
  • Silymarin
  • Silybin