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Milk Thistle Could Be Useful During Leukemia Treatment

Last Updated: December 14, 2009.

The use of the herb milk thistle may reduce liver toxicity in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia undergoing chemotherapy, according to research published online Dec. 14 in Cancer.

MONDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The use of the herb milk thistle may reduce liver toxicity in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia undergoing chemotherapy, according to research published online Dec. 14 in Cancer.

Elena J. Ladas, a registered dietician from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from 49 children who were randomized to receive oral milk thistle or placebo for 28 days; the mean ages for the groups were 8.7 and 7 years, respectively. All the children had hepatic toxicity of grade 2 or greater.

At day 28, the researchers found no significant changes in mean values for aspartate amino transferase (AST), amino alanine transferase (ALT), and total bilirubin. However, at day 56, the milk thistle group had significantly lower AST compared and a trend toward significantly lower ALT. Fewer patients in the treatment group had reduction in chemotherapy dose during the intervention period (61 versus 72 percent), though this difference was not significant.

"Despite our study's limitations, it provides preliminary evidence that milk thistle may be a safe, effective, supportive-care agent. Future investigations are needed to determine the appropriate dose and duration and to identify populations that may gain the largest clinical benefit. Possible populations are those undergoing treatment for acute myelogenous leukemia or stem-cell transplantation in which hepatotoxicity frequently results in interruptions of treatment," the authors write.

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