Other common name(s): Carticin, Cartilade™, BeneFin™, Neovastat (AE-941)
Scientific/medical name(s): none
Shark cartilage is extracted from the heads and fins of sharks. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue that is found in the skeletal systems of many animals, including humans. Sharks' skeletons are made up almost entirely of cartilage. The major compounds in shark cartilage are proteoglycans and glycoproteins (large molecules with protein and carbohydrate components), as well as protein and calcium salts. Shark cartilage is promoted mainly as an alternative to conventional cancer treatment, but some forms are being studied for use along with standard therapies.
Most shark cartilage products are sold as dietary supplements in the form of pills or powders. Most have not been tested for effectiveness, safety, or to verify the purity of ingredients. Available scientific evidence does not support claims that shark cartilage supplements sold as food supplements are an effective treatment for cancer, osteoporosis, or any other disease. One shark cartilage product, called AE-941, is in the early phases of development as an investigational new drug.
Although some laboratory and animal studies have shown that some components in shark cartilage have the ability to slow the growth of new blood vessels, these effects have not been proven in humans. The few small clinical studies of shark cartilage products published to date have not shown any benefit against cancer. Further clinical trials of the supplements and of a purified cartilage extract are currently under way.
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How is it promoted for use?
Supporters believe that shark cartilage supplements or cartilage from other animals, such as cows, can slow or stop the growth of cancer (see also Bovine Cartilage). According to its supporters, shark cartilage contains proteins that stop angiogenesis, the process of blood vessel development. Tumors need a network of blood vessels to survive and grow, so cutting off the tumor's blood supply starves it of nutrients, causing it to shrink or disappear. Some supporters also claim that shark cartilage can help against other diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, psoriasis, macular degeneration, and inflammation of the intestinal tract.
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More information from your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).
Guidelines for Using Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Dietary Supplements: How to Know What Is Safe
The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
Complementary and Alternative Methods for Cancer Management
Learning About New Ways to Treat Cancer
Learning About New Ways to Prevent Cancer
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Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.