The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is spending more and more time reviewing reports of liver damage caused by drugs. It is with this backdrop that results from a new Cancer study on a milk thistle-derived ingredient show some promise for maintaining liver health in individuals taking certain chemotherapeutics.

Children undergoing such therapy (with vincristine, MTX, 6-MP) to treat leukemia are prone to liver toxicity. In this study conducted at Columbia University Medical Center, 50 children taking chemotherapeutics were given a milk thistle extract (Siliphos from Indena, based in Milan, Italy) or a placebo for several weeks. During this time, the children were given blood tests to monitor liver function such as changes in alanine transferase (ALT), aspartate amino transferase (AST) or total bilirubin (TB). After 56 days, the milk thistle group had “significantly lower” AST and ALT levels. Of interest, there was a “modest synergistic effect” between the two therapies and the herb did not negatively affect the chemotherapy.

These results are encouraging, and the group feels additional research should be conducted on this promising application.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2010.