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All About Shark Cartilage


By: Luke Proskine



Introduction to Information off the Web

Sharks have existed on this earth for over 400 million years, and for the most part have been one of the only species in earth’s history that has not been changed dramatically as a result of evolution ( Furthermore, in recent times since the onslaught of the industrial revolution, numerous pollutants and toxins have been introduced into the earth’s oceans, forests, and atmosphere resulting in cancerous development in nearly all forms of life. Incredibly, however, the amazing living machine known as the shark has survived literally unchanged and has rarely developed cancer despite the fact that almost all other creatures of land and sea get cancer regularly ( - ). These prehistoric sea creatures have skeletons, unlike other animals, largely made up of cartilage, which is a tough yet malleable connective tissue. The fact that sharks do not regularly get cancer, that they have survived the test of time, and that they are composed mostly of cartilage has raised quite a bit of interest among scientists within the past twenty years ( - ). Based upon this research (however, mostly unofficial) shark cartilage is now very popular on the web as a safe and effective treatment for osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and numerous other diseases ( - The above information was obtained off of the world wide web, however, in this website we will also discuss the "real" information that has been obtained from reliable medical journals.


Early Findings and Subsequent Claims

One company selling shark cartilage claimed that after years of research by several doctors, finally in 1983, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was proven that shark cartilage contains a protein that inhibits the formation of blood vessels to tumors. ( - Hence, they said if a tumor cannot create a blood vessel network it will become malnourished and eventually die. Shortly proceeding this discovery, a great amount of hype was established saying that shark cartilage was the cure-all for everything. Numerous additional companies now have shark cartilage products on the market saying that shark cartilage is "the most powerful anti-inflammatory agent and wound healing substance in the world," or that this cartilage "cures cancer effectively." Most of these claims have little merit, however, the fact remains that if used properly, shark cartilage can or could prevent the development of tumor-based cancer and metastasis ( -

After surfing the web and visiting countless websites, my research (solely off the web) has become clear that shark cartilage can be very helpful in the treatment of many chronic and life-threatening diseases and disorders. Through research by scientists, these companies say that it has been proven that cancer, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, and other diseases have responded significantly to the application of shark cartilage ( - A claim made by the Aran company stated that cartilage is an elastic tissue, which composes the skeletons of most embryonic and young vertebrates, and sharks. Amazingly, cartilage is a tissue that performs its functions without nerves, blood vessels, or a lymphatic system and nutrients are, therefore, not transported to cartilage via the blood or lymphatic fluid ( - It is this characteristic in particular which holds a promise for battling cancer and other diseases that cause the formation of malignant tumors ( - Thus, shark cartilage, which significantly slows the development of blood vessels that nourish tumors, has the ability to limit tumor growth. Therefore the rationale of treatment with shark cartilage is to inhibit angiogenesis or the development of new blood networks ( - Scientists believe and companies claim that because of the ability of shark cartilage to slow angiogenesis, it can yield positive results in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.  

Treatment and Studies

Shark cartilage is offered by most companies in powdered or liquid form and can be taken either orally or rectally. When taken regularly this treatment supposedly inhibits angiogenesis and stimulates the immune system, which then works synergistically with the protein in fighting disease ( - The stopping of tumor growth caused by the use of shark cartilage has proven very beneficial to many people suffering from cancer. One study conducted to prove the effectiveness of shark cartilage was administered in Mexico with eight non-paying, terminal cancer patients. These patients were left for dead after all conventional therapies had failed, so this group of doctors treated them with regular doses of shark cartilage. Six different types of tumors were presented and in seven of the eight patients, five were tumor free, two had an eighty percent tumor reduction, and only one had died ( - After one oncologist witnessed similar results, he said, "In my history as an oncologist, I have never seen or experienced anything like this response with shark cartilage." These results have been so positive that even the popular television show 60 minutes aired a program about the effectiveness of shark cartilage on treating cancer. On the World Wide Web success stories of everyday people can also be found telling of the amazing results that a regular dosage has had on helping their cancer ( - Despite all of these profound success stories nothing is official yet and the benefits of shark cartilage in cancer prevention have not been determined specifically. Because of some of these questionable claims of effectiveness, one must wonder about the validity each website has to offer.


Possible Bias

The research I obtained came mostly from companies who wished to sell the shark cartilage on line and some information came from a program called real life which supplies the public with information. Both of these types of websites stressed the safety of shark cartilage and made a point that the treatment was completely non-toxic. The companies who desired to sell the product made shark cartilage out to be the best thing in the world and the cure for everything. The program which was for the knowledge of the public did not portray shark cartilage to be as positive, yet, it still expressed the monumental scientific breakthrough caused from the discovery and it also talked of the great possibility of shark cartilage as a major cure for cancer. On the other hand, I obtained a website written by environmentalists ( -, which portrayed shark cartilage as something terrible and destructive. These people clearly feared that a boom of some sort in this industry could decimate the shark population. The validity of this website, I believe is substantially less than that of the other two types because of the radical views it had and the lack of evidence displayed supporting all of their points. Information about such a topic has a tendency to be twisted around according to what the people want one to believe. All of the websites lacked significant concrete evidence that went in depth about the efficacy of shark cartilage and cannot be taken very seriously.

Significant information has proven shark cartilage to be quite instrumental in the inhibition of angiogenesis and the subsequent destruction of cancerous tumors. This treatment is quite safe; however, its effectiveness with humans has not been officially determined. All of the information obtained on the web cannot be relied on as well largely due to bias and wants of the author. Reliable Medical Research on the Effectiveness of Shark Cartilage



The difference between the two pictures on this website sums up my findings of research on the web and research of medical journals that contain real experiments testing the validity of shark cartilage as a treatment for malignant disease. The first picture is blown way out of proportion, is a cartoon and thus not real, and exaggerates all of the features in the picture. The second picture is an actual photo of a living blue shark swimming in real life through the ocean and unlike the other picture it is very real. In other words, the vast majority of the information placed on the web about shark cartilage is false, exaggerated, and hence not real. The basic question presented here is does the use of shark cartilage have any scientific basis in the treatment of cancer. Sharks have caused great interest among scientists concerning this topic because they have inhabited the ocean for millions of years and are rarely affected by cancer and other disease. Thus, scientists have proposed that the shark's skeleton of cartilage contains a substance that inhibits angiogenesis (the development of new blood net works) and may have a role in the shark's immunity to cancer (Hunt). The growth of solid tumors relies on new vessel growth and angiogenesis is required to deprive the host of nutrition and oxygen. If angiogenesis were inhibited by shark cartilage, degeneration of solid tumor cells would be the end result (Iwaguchi). Such ideas and findings have led to the idea that cartilage could be used for the treatment of tumors in humans, however, conclusive studies are lacking (Hunt).

Animal Experiments

Numerous studies using animals have been conducted to answer this question and some have raised positive results. In 1983 a study was conducted using white rabbits to see if shark cartilage contained inhibitors of tumor angiogenesis. Scientists took large quantities of basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) cartilage and through a variety of chemical processes, such as ultrafiltration and lyophilization, they extracted the inhibitor (Langer). The scientists then made incisions in the corneas of these rabbits and placed cancerous tumor grafts inside the incisions (Iwaguchi). Some of the rabbits had implanted pellets of shark cartilage extract next to the tumor grafts, while others had identically sized fake pellets placed in the cornea next to the grafts as a control group (Langer). After 19 days of intense observation, the extract of basking shark cartilage had proven to significantly inhibit tumor growth. All of the control corneas had large, three-dimensional tumors with an average maximum length of 6mm (half the diameter of the cornea), while the treated corneas did not have three-dimensional tumors (Langer). All treated tumors showed little growth with an average maximum length of 1.5 mm, 75% less than the controls (Langer). Such results certainly demonstrate that basking shark-cartilage extract strongly inhibits tumor-induced growth. This data, however, remains incomplete and unimpressive to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and has not received sponsorship from their organization.


Human Studies and Results

In addition to animal research, shark cartilage has also been studied in human subjects. In 1993 an entire "60 minutes" broadcast was dedicated to this topic. This show discussed a 16- week trial that was conducted in Cuba to evaluate the efficacy of shark cartilage for cancer treatment (Matthews). Out of twenty-nine patients, three showed response to treatment. The results were claimed to be incredible, however, as mentioned earlier, the NCI did not sponsor further studies based on the inconsistent data. Another study was taken the same year in Lawrenceville, NJ and out of 20 patients using shark cartilage, 10 claimed to have an improved quality of life, including deceased pain and increased appetite after eight weeks (Hunt). Scientists believe, however, that when one gets a dramatic disease such as cancer he or she is searching for anything to help them get better. Shark cartilage fills this emotional void extremely well and thus, can be attributed to some of the success (Markman). These patients that "feel better, gain strength, and experience less fatigue" after taking shark cartilage, just as prayer, meditation, and group therapy may provide important emotional support for some persons dealing with an extremely difficult disease (Markman). In addition, it is extremely unlikely that oral ingestion of this material could have any clinically meaningful effect on the natural history of established cancer because very little is absorbed (Markman). Even if it is absorbed, it will enter the liver, where further breakdown of any active ingredient will take place. Thus, what remains of the pill must somehow reach the tumor, be taken up by the cancer cells, and subsequently either inactivate or kill the malignant cells (Markman).

In conclusion, shark cartilage appears to provide many patients with hope and emotional support, but does nothing to the cancer. All of the sensational claims made on the web are definitely not true because of their lack of scientific evidence. Shark cartilage may be used for cancer treatment effectively in the future, however, right now no scientific facts can support the claims of shark cartilage's ability to treat cancer.


Hunt, Traci. "Shark cartilage for cancer treatment." American Journal of Health System Pharmacology. Aug 15 1995; 52: 1756, 60.

Iwaguchi, T. "A novel angiogenic inhibitor." Cancer Letters. Jun 15 1990; 51:181-6.

Langer, Robert. "Shark cartilage contains inhibitors of tumor angiogenesis." Science. 1983; 221:1185-87.

Markman, Maurie. "Shark cartilage." Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. June 1996; 63:179-180

Matthews, James. "Media feeds frenzy over shark cartilage as cancer treatment." Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Aug 4 1993; 85:1190-91.



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