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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A flavonoid antioxidant, silymarin, affords exceptionally high protection against tumor promotion in the SENCAR mouse skin tumorigenesis model.

In cancer chemoprevention studies, the identification of better antitumor-promoting agents is highly desired because they may have a wider applicability against the development of clinical cancers. Both epidemiological and animal studies have suggested that microchemicals present in the diet and several herbs and plants with diversified pharmacological properties are useful agents for the prevention of a wide variety of human cancers. Silymarin, a flavonoid isolated from milk thistle, is used clinically in Europe and Asia as an antihepatotoxic agent, largely due to its strong antioxidant activity. Because most antioxidants afford protection against tumor promotion, in this study, we assessed the protective effect of silymarin on tumor promotion in the SENCAR mouse skin tumorigenesis model. Application of silymarin prior to each 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) application resulted in a highly significant protection against tumor promotion in 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-initiated mouse skin. The protective effect of silymarin was evident in terms of reduction in tumor incidence (25, 40, and 75% protection, P < 0.001, X2 test), tumor multiplicity (76, 84, and 97% protection, P < 0.001, Wilcoxon rank sum test), and tumor volume (76, 94, and 96% protection, P < 0.001, Student's t test) at the doses of 3, 6, and 12 mg per application, respectively. To dissect out the stage specificity of silymarin against tumor promotion, we next assessed its effect against both stage I and stage II of tumor promotion. Application of silymarin prior to that of TPA in stage I or mezerein in stage II tumor promotion in dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-initiated SENCAR mouse skin resulted in an exceptionally high protective effect during stage I tumor promotion, showing 74% protection against tumor incidence (P < 0.001, X2 test), 92% protection against tumor multiplicity (P < 0.001, Wilcoxon rank sum test), and 96% protection against tumor volume (P < 0.001, Student's t test). With regard to stage II tumor promotion, silymarin showed 26, 63, and 54% protection in tumor incidence, multiplicity, and volume, respectively. Similar effect of silymarin to that in anti-stage I studies, were also observed when applied during both stage I and stage II protocols. In other studies, silymarin significantly inhibited: (a) TPA-induced skin edema, epidermal hyperplasia, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen-positive cells; (b) DNA synthesis; and (c) epidermal lipid peroxidation, the early markers of TPA-caused changes that are associated with tumor promotion. Taken together, these results suggest that silymarin possesses exceptionally high protective effects against tumor promotion, primarily targeted against stage I tumors, and that the mechanism of such effects may involve inhibition of promoter-induced edema, hyperplasia, proliferation index, and oxidant state.[1]


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