The Argument Against Shark Cartilage

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

— by Jeff Jurmain, MA

Found ineffective in the past for use in health conditions, shark cartilage has again struck out, showing no benefit as a therapeutic agent for lung cancer. File this story in the “where-not-to-spend-your-money” bin.

In the first scientific study of its kind, shark cartilage extract AE-941, or “Neovastat,” has shown no benefit when combined with chemotherapy and radiation for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Texas researchers published the study in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute.” Their findings were first presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The idea that this “herbal remedy” might be helpful stems from preliminary studies that support the notion that cartilage could trigger cancer cell death. Also, shark cartilage has long intrigued people due to the belief that the incidence of cancer in this cartilaginous fish is very rare. Early studies in lung and kidney cancers suggested that some patients benefited from higher doses of AE-941.

This is the first large study of shark cartilage as an anti-cancer agent. It is a type never sold over the counter, but instead a type developed as a pharmaceutical. Researchers enrolled 379 newly- diagnosed untreated Stage III non-small cell lung cancer patients at 53 sites in the United States and in Canada from June 2000 to February 2006. The study was actually requested by the National Cancer Institute, which wanted to see what the chances were that shark cartilage could work in killing cancer.

In the study, everyone underwent the standard chemotherapy and radiation. Patients were randomized to receive either shark cartilage or placebo, both in the form of a liquid. Patients drank four ounces of the extract twice daily. With an average follow-up of 3.7 years, researchers found no statistical difference in survival between patients who received the shark cartilage (14.4 months), and those who received the placebo (15.6 months).

Clearly, the results demonstrate that shark cartilage does not improve survival rates for lung cancer. The findings have to cast major scepticism on shark cartilage products being sold for profit. There is no data to support their purported cancer-fighting abilities. Researchers warn those who are currently taking shark cartilage to be very cautious in accepting that the therapy will be beneficial.

Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women. Non-small cell is the most common type of the disease, accounting for about 80% of all lung cancers.