Silibinin from milk thistle seeds as novel, non-invasive treatment strategy for Cushing Disease

Silibinin has an outstanding safety profile in humans and is currently used for the treatment of liver disease and poisoning. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich discovered in collaboration with scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München in cell cultures, animal models and human tumor tissue 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 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 brain surgery anymore.
Treatment with silibinin, a constituent of milk thistle seeds, alleviated symptoms of Cushing Disease in cell cultures, animal models and human tumor tissue. In future, patients might not have to undergo brain surgery anymore.

Cushing Disease, not to be confused with Cushing’s Syndrome, is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland in the brain. The tumor secrets 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 and 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.

Scientists around Günter Stalla, endocrinologist at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, have now discovered in cell cultures, animal models and human tumor tissue that a harmless plant extract can be applied to treat Cushing Disease. “Silibinin is the major active constituent of milk thistle seeds. It has an outstanding safety profile in humans and is already used for the treatment of liver disease and poisoning,” explains Marcelo Paez-Pereda, leading scientist of the current study published in the renowned scientific journal Nature Medicine. After silibinin treatment, tumor cells resumed normal ACTH production, tumor growth slowed down and symptoms of Cushing Disease disappeared in mice.

In 2013, the Max Planck scientists filed a patent on a broad family of chemical and natural compounds, including silibinin, to treat pituitary tumors. Compared to humans, where only 5.5 in 100,000 people worldwide develop Cushing Disease, this condition is very common in several pets. For example, 4 % of dogs and even 7 % of horses suffer from Cushing Disease. Thus, the researchers now plan to test special formulations with a very pure substance and slow release of the active component silibinin in clinical trials.

Silibinin: Mode of action

“We knew that Cushing Disease is caused by the release of too much ACTH. So we asked ourselves what causes this over production and how to stop it,” says Paez-Pereda. In their first experiments, the researchers found tremendously high amounts of the heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) in tumor tissue from patients with Cushing Disease. In normal amounts, HSP90 helps to correctly fold another protein, the glucocorticoid receptor, which in turn inhibits the production of ACTH. “As there are too many HSP90 molecules in the tumor tissue, they stick to the glucocorticoid receptor,” explains Paez-Pereda. “We found that silibinin binds to HSP90 thus allowing glucocorticoid receptor molecules to dissolve from HSP90. With silibinin, we might have discovered a non-invasive treatment strategy not only for the rare Cushing Disease but also for other conditions with the involvement of glucocorticoid receptors, such as lung tumors, acute lymphoblastic leukemia or multiple myeloma,” concludes Paez-Pereda.


HSA issues alert on 2 illegal pain relief products

SINGAPORE: The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Wednesday (Jun 3) issued an alert on two illegal health products sold in Singapore, one of which caused a consumer to be hospitalised for adverse reactions.

HSA added that investigations are ongoing and laboratory tests have found undeclared potent medicinal ingredients in the products.

A woman in her 40s has been hospitalised for “delirium (confusion), high blood sugar, electrolyte imbalance in her blood and suspected Cushing’s syndrome (characterised by a round face or ‘moon face’ and upper body obesity within thin limbs)” after consuming an illegal pain relief product, said HSA.

The woman had been consuming the “powder packed in unlabelled pink sachets” for pain relief over a prolonged period of time because she believed it had “miraculous powers”, HSA added. The powder was found to contain the illegal ingredients Chlorpheniramine and Dexamethasone.

The patient had bought the powder from “an auntie who sells powdered medicine” – a woman in her 60s who would personally deliver the products to the addresses provided by the customers, said HSA.

HSA raided the peddler’s home and discovered another illegal health product – black pills labelled “special effect rheumatism pill”. They were found to contain Dexamethasone and Chlorpheniramine, as well as Bromhexine.

Dexamethasone could cause diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts and Cushing’s syndrome, among other adverse reactions. Chlorpheniramine and Bromhexine could cause symptoms including diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

The authority advised members of the public who have purchased or are consuming the products to:

Consult a doctor as soon as possible before stopping usage as sudden discontinuation of steroids without proper medical supervision can cause serious withdrawal symptoms

Avoid buying health products from street peddlers, unknown websites or sellers, or even from well-meaning friends or relatives

Be wary of health products not properly labelled with ingredient information or make exaggerated claims like “instant pain relief”

Seek appropriate medical treatment from a doctor for the management of acute and chronic medical conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism

via HSA issues alert on 2 illegal pain relief products – Channel NewsAsia.

%d bloggers like this: