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Mol Carcinog. 2015 Nov;54(11):1328-39. doi: 10.1002/mc.22208. Epub 2014 Aug 30.

Silymarin inhibits melanoma cell growth both in vitro and in vivo by targeting cell cycle regulators, angiogenic biomarkers and induction of apoptosis.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.
Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama.


Cutaneous malignant melanoma is the leading cause of death from skin diseases and is often associated with activating mutations of the proto-oncogene BRAF. To develop more effective strategies for the prevention or treatment of melanoma, we have examined the inhibitory effects of silymarin, a flavanoid from Silybum marianum, on melanoma cells. Using A375 (BRAF-mutated) and Hs294t (non BRAF-mutated but highly metastatic) human melanoma cell lines, we found that in vitro treatment with silymarin resulted in a dose-dependent: (i) reduction in cell viability; (ii) enhancement of either Go/G1 (A375) or G2-M (Hs294t) phase cell cycle arrest with corresponding alterations in cyclins and cyclin-dependent kinases; and (iii) induction of apoptosis. The silymarin-induced apoptosis of human melanoma cells was associated with a reduction in the levels of anti-apoptotic proteins (Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl), an increase in the levels of pro-apoptotic protein (Bax), and activation of caspases. Further, oral administration of silymarin (500 mg/kg body weight/2× a week) significantly inhibited (60%, P < 0.01) the growth of BRAF-mutated A375 melanoma tumor xenografts, and this was associated with: (i) inhibition of cell proliferation; (ii) induction of apoptosis of tumor cells; (iii) alterations in cell cycle regulatory proteins; and (iv) reduced expression of tumor angiogenic biomarkers in tumor xenograft tissues. These results indicate that silymarin may have a chemotherapeutic effect on human melanoma cell growth and warrant its further evaluation.


angiogenesis; apoptosis; cell proliferation; melanoma; silymarin; tumor xenograft

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