Pituitary tumours, Cushings disease and milk thistle

2015 Research

Silibinin, an active component of milk thistle, is currently used for the treatment of liver disease and poisoning and has a good safety profile.

Now, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have found that silibinin can be applied to treat Cushing Disease, a rare hormone condition caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain. The research was done in cell cultures, animal models and human tumour tissue.

Cushing Disease, (not to be confused with Cushing’s Syndrome), is caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland in the brain. The researchers have filed a patent and now plan clinical trials using silibinin as a non-invasive treatment strategy. Thus, in future, patients might not have to undergo complicated brain surgery anymore.

After silibinin treatment, tumour cells resumed normal ACTH production, tumor growth slowed down and symptoms of Cushing Disease disappeared in mice.

The tumour secretes increased amounts of the stress hormone adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) followed by cortisol release from the adrenal glands leading to rapid weight gain, elevated blood pressure and muscular weakness. Patients are prone to osteoporosis, infections and may show cognitive dysfunction or even depression. In 80 to 85 % of the patients the tumor can be removed by uncomfortable brain surgery. For inoperable cases, there is currently only one targeted therapy approved which unfortunately causes intense side effects such as hyperglycemia in more than 20 % of the patients.

This study was published in the renowned scientific journal Nature Medicine (February 10, 2015)

In 2013, the Max Planck scientists filed a patent on a broad family of chemical and natural compounds, including silibinin, to treat pituitary tumors.

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2015 Research
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