Comfrey or Symphytum officinale (L.) (Boraginaceae) is a very popular plant used for therapeutic purposes. Since the 1980s, its effects have been studied in long-term carcinogenesis studies, in which Comfrey extract is administered at high doses during several months and the neoplastic hepatic lesions are evaluated. However, the literature on this topic is very poor considering the studies performed under short-term carcinogenesis protocols, such as the ‘resistant hepatocyte model’ (RHM). In these studies, it is possible to observe easily the phenomena related to the early phases of tumor development, since pre-neoplastic lesions (PNLs) rise in about 1–2 months of chemical induction. Herein, the effects of chronic oral treatment of rats with 10% Comfrey ethanolic extract were evaluated in a RHM. Wistar rats were sequentially treated with N-nitrosodiethylamine (ip) and 2-acetilaminofluorene (po), and submitted to hepatectomy to induce carcinogenesis promotion. Macroscopic/microscopic quantitative analysis of PNL was performed. Non-parametric statistical tests (Mann–Whitney and χ2) were used, and the level of significance was set at P ≤ 0.05. Comfrey treatment reduced the number of pre-neoplastic macroscopic lesions up to 1 mm (P ≤ 0.05), the percentage of oval cells (P = 0.0001) and mitotic figures (P = 0.007), as well as the number of Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen (PCNA) positive cells (P = 0.0001) and acidophilic pre-neoplastic nodules (P = 0.05). On the other hand, the percentage of cells presenting megalocytosis (P = 0.0001) and vacuolar degeneration (P = 0.0001) was increased. Scores of fibrosis, glycogen stores and the number of nucleolus organizing regions were not altered. The study indicated that oral treatment of rats with 10% Comfrey alcoholic extract reduced cell proliferation in this model.
Keywords: Comfrey, hepatocarcinogenesis, phytotherapy, Symphytum sp