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Herb May Counter Liver Damage From Chemo
Date:12/14/2009

Milk thistle appears to reduce liver inflammation in cancer patients, researchers say

MONDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A medicinal herb, milk thistle, appears to reduce liver damage resulting from chemotherapy, a new study finds.

Chemo drugs often cause liver inflammation, making it necessary to lower the dose or suspend treatment until the inflammation subsides. These interruptions in therapy can make treatment less effective, the researchers said.

"We found that milk thistle, compared to placebo, was more effective in reducing inflammation," said lead researcher Dr. Kara Kelly, from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York City.

"If these results are confirmed, milk thistle may allow us to treat liver inflammation or prevent it from occurring, which will allow better delivery of chemotherapy drugs," she added.

The report is published in the Dec. 14 online edition of Cancer.

Milk thistle, a longtime folk remedy, is often recommended to treat liver damage and mushroom poisoning. No other treatment for liver toxicity exists, Kelly said.

For the study, Kelly's team randomly assigned 50 children undergoing chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia to receive milk thistle or a placebo for 28 days. All the children had liver inflammation at the start of the study.

Twenty-eight days later, the children who had received milk thistle had improved liver enzymes, compared with the children who received a placebo, the researchers said.

The milk thistle group had significantly lower levels of one enzyme in particular, AST, and a trend towards lower levels of another enzyme called ALT, Kelly's group found.

In addition, milk thistle appeared to help patients tolerate higher doses of chemotherapy. Sixty-one percent of the children receiving milk thistle needed dose reductions
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