This complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information summary provides an overview of the use of milk thistle as a treatment and adjunct agent for people with cancer.
The summary includes a brief history of milk thistle, a review of the laboratory studies and clinical trials, and a description of adverse effects associated with milk thistle use.
This summary contains the following key information:
Milk thistle is a plant whose fruit and seeds have been used for more than 2,000 years...
B symptoms (fever ≥38°C, soaking night sweats, weight loss ≥10% within 6 months).
Bulky disease (≥10 cm or >33% of the chest diameter on chest x-ray).
Three or more sites of nodal involvement.
Sedimentation rate of ≥50 mm/h.
Patients with early unfavorable HL showed relapse rates over 30% at 5 years with radiation therapy alone, prompting evaluation of chemotherapy plus involved-field radiation therapy (IF-XRT) versus chemotherapy alone. The late mortality from solid tumors, especially in the lung, breast, gastrointestinal tract, and connective tissue, and from cardiovascular disease makes radiation therapy a less attractive option unless therapeutic benefits exceed the long-term complications.[2,3,4,5,6]
A randomized, prospective trial from the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) involving 276 patients with early unfavorable HL compared ABVD for four to six cycles to ABVD for two cycles plus extended-field radiation therapy (EF-XRT); with a median follow-up of 11.3 years, the freedom-from-progression favored combined modality therapy (86% vs. 94%; P = .006), but the overall survival (OS) was better for ABVD alone (92% vs. 81%; P = .04).[Level of evidence: 1iiA] The trend toward a worse survival for the combined modality arm was attributed to excess secondary malignancies and cardiovascular deaths. In this trial, the extended-field radiation used higher doses and significantly larger exposure to body sites than are employed in current practice.
A randomized study from the Southwest Oncology Group of clinically staged patients (no laparotomy) compared subtotal lymphoid radiation to 3 months of AV followed by subtotal lymphoid radiation therapy; the combined modality arm showed superior failure-free survival (94% vs. 81%; P < .001) but not OS at 3.3 years' median follow-up.[Level of evidence: 1iiDiii]