Related lab experiments showed the herb did not lessen the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drugs, and Kelly thinks milk thistle might reduce liver inflammation for patients with other cancers who are taking other types of chemotherapy as well. Further research is needed, she said, to determine the appropriate dose and duration of milk thistle therapy.
Her team also hopes to evaluate the herb's ability to prevent chemo-induced liver inflammation.
Still, some experts remain unconvinced about the herb's value in cancer treatment. Dr. Julio C. Barredo, director of pediatric hematology-oncology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that the study's small size, the low doses of milk thistle used and the short time frame of the study make the findings inconclusive.
Also, there was no difference in the delay of treatment in either group, he said.
"Improvement in one liver enzyme did not lead to patients who received the drug being delayed less than patients who received placebo in getting their chemotherapy," Barredo said.
"I don't think that you could recommend that people go and take this supplement when they are taking chemotherapy from the results of this study," Barredo said. "Maybe a larger study, using a higher dose is warranted."
Liver inflammation from chemotherapy usually abates when treatment stops or doses get reduced, Barredo added.
For more information on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: Kara Kelly, M.D., New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York City; Julio C. Barredo, M.D., director, pediatric
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