Silymarin, boswellic acid and curcumin enriched dietetic formulation reduces the growth of inherited intestinal polyps in an animal model

World J Gastroenterol. 2020 Apr 14;26(14):1601-1612. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v26.i14.1601.


Background: Some substances of plant origin have been reported to exert an effect in reducing intestinal neoplasm development, especially in animal models. Adenomatous polyposis coli multiple intestinal neoplasia - ApcMin/+ is the most studied murine model of genetic intestinal carcinogenesis.

Aim: To assess whether an enriched nutritional formulation (silymarin, boswellic acid and curcumin) with proven "in vitro" and "in vivo" anti-carcinogenetic properties may prevent inherited intestinal cancer in animal model.

Methods: Forty adenomatous polyposis coli multiple intestinal neoplasia - ApcMin/+ mice were used for the study of cancer prevention. They were divided into two groups: 20 assumed standard and 20 enriched diet. At the 110th d animals were sacrificed. In each group, four subgroups received intraperitoneal bromodeoxyuridine injection at different times (24, 48, 72 and 96 h before the sacrifice) in order to assess epithelial turnover. Moreover, we evaluated the following parameters: Intestinal polypoid lesion number and size on autoptic tissue, dysplasia and neoplasia areas by histological examination of the whole small intestine, inflammation by histology and cytokine mRNA expression by real-time polymerase chain reaction, bromodeoxyuridine and TUNEL immuno-fluorescence for epithelial turnover and apoptosis, respectively. Additionally, we performed western blotting analysis for the expression of estrogen alpha and beta receptors, cyclin D1 and cleaved caspase 3 in normal and polypoid tissues.

Results: Compared to standard, enriched diet reduced the total number (203 vs 416) and the mean ± SD/animal (12.6 ± 5.0 vs 26.0 ± 8.8; P < 0.001) of polypoid lesions. In enriched diet group a reduction in polyp size was observed (P < 0.001). Histological inflammation and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression were similar in both groups. Areas of low-grade dysplasia (P < 0.001) and intestinal carcinoma (IC; P < 0.001) were significantly decreased in enriched diet group. IC was observed in 100% in standard and 85% in enriched formulation assuming animals. Enriched diet showed a faster epithelial migration and an increased apoptosis in normal mucosa and low-grade dysplasia areas (P < 0.001). At western blotting, estrogen receptor beta protein was well expressed in normal mucosa of enriched and standard groups, with a more marked trend associated to the first one. Estrogen receptor alpha was similarly expressed in normal and polypoid mucosa of standard and enriched diet group. Cleaved caspase 3 showed in normal mucosa a stronger signal in enriched than in standard diet. Cyclin D1 was more expressed in standard than enriched diet group of both normal and polypoid tissue.

Conclusion: Our results are suggestive of a chemo-preventive synergic effect of the components (silymarin, boswellic acid and curcumin) of an enriched formulation in inherited IC. This effect may be mediated by the reduction of epithelial proliferation, the increase of apoptosis and the acceleration of villous cell renewal due to dietary formulation intake.

Keywords: ApcMin/+ mice; Boswellia; Chemopreventive diet; Curcumin; Familial adenomatous polyposis; Intestinal cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli / genetics
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli / pathology
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli / prevention & control*
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein / genetics
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Curcumin / administration & dosage*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Silymarin / administration & dosage*
  • Triterpenes / administration & dosage*


  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein
  • Silymarin
  • Triterpenes
  • adenomatous polyposis coli protein, mouse
  • boswellic acid
  • Curcumin