Purpose: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common recurrent malignancies, for which, currently, there is no effective therapy. Considering the antihepatotoxic activity of silibinin, a widely used drug and supplement for various liver disorders, together with its strong preventive and anticancer efficacy against various epithelial cancers, we investigated the efficacy of silibin against human HCC cells.
Experimental design: Silibinin effects were examined on growth, cytotoxicity, apoptosis, and cell cycle progression in two different HCC cell lines, HepG2 (hepatitis B virus negative; p53 intact) and Hep3B (hepatitis B virus positive; p53 mutated). At molecular level, cell cycle effects of silibinin were assessed by immunoblotting and in-bead kinase assays.
Results: Silibinin strongly inhibited growth of both HepG2 and Hep3B cells with a relatively stronger cytotoxicity in Hep3B cells, which was associated with apoptosis induction. Silibinin also caused G1 arrest in HepG2 and both G1 and G2-M arrests in Hep3B cells. Mechanistic studies revealed that silibinin induces Kip1/p27 but decreases cyclin D1, cyclin D3, cyclin E, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-2, and CDK4 levels in both cell lines. In Hep3B cells, silibinin also reduced the protein levels of G2-M regulators. Furthermore, silibinin strongly inhibited CDK2, CDK4, and CDC2 kinase activity in these HCC cells.
Conclusion: Together, these results for the first time identify the biological efficacy of silibinin against HCC cells, suggesting the importance of conducting further investigations in preclinical HCC models, especially on in vivo efficacy, to support the clinical usefulness of silibinin against hepatocellular carcinoma in addition to its known clinical efficacy as an antihepatotoxic agent.