May 21--Researchers at The Hormel Institute have discovered that an anticancer
agent in milk thistle significantly restricts the growth of melanoma, a deadly
form of skin cancer afflicting millions worldwide.
The discovery, made by a research team led by Executive Director Dr. Zigang
Dong, is featured on the cover of the May 2013 edition of Cancer Prevention
Research, a publication by the American Association for Cancer Research, a
leading cancer research journal.
Silybin, a natural anticancer agent also known as silibinin, is a major
bioactive component of the milk thistle plant and has long been used for
preventing allergies and liver damage. Several studies have shown silybin's
chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic effects against various cancers,
including colon, prostate, bladder and lung cancers.
A direct molecular target for silybin, however, had never been identified until
researchers at The Hormel Institute revealed silybin's molecular targets while
investigating its effect on melanoma cell growth. Their study found silybin
weakened melanoma growth.
"These research findings are especially significant because, although many
common cancers are declining, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise at an
estimated rate of 3.1 percent annually," Dong said.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Melanoma -- the most
aggressive form of skin cancer -- accounts for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.
With this study, researchers used The Hormel Institute's supercomputer
technology to identify a potential inhibitor of a signaling pathway in the body
that is an important trigger for melanoma survival, growth and proliferation,
Dong said. Thus, developing drugs that target multiple components of this
signaling pathway could reduce the incidence and mortality of melanoma skin
cancer, he said.
Silybin and other chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic agents with multiple
gene targets hold promise in developing effective anticancer drugs, Dong said.
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