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En excerpt from the book : 

by Ross, R.Ph. Pelton, Lee Overholser

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Shark Cartilage

SHARKS HAVE BEEN swimming in the earth's oceans for over 400 million years. Having survived ice ages, the destruction of the dinosaurs, and other global disasters, sharks have become one of the most durable animals on our planet. One reason is that they have an incredibly powerful immune system.


The shark's immune system does more than fight infections. Unlike man and other animals, including most species of fish, sharks don't get cancer. Humans have always feared sharks and now, ironically, sharks may help us in one of our greatest challenges, the fight against cancer.

For the past twenty-five years scientists have been trying to unlock the mystery of the shark's cancer-preventing immune system. Marine biologist Dr. Carl Luer has tried unsuccessfully for years to grow transplanted cancer cells in sharks. (14)

One of the major differences between sharks and higher vertebrates like fish and mammals is that a shark's skeleton is composed entirely of cartilage and contains no true bony tissue. It is this cartilaginous skeleton that appears to contain the substance that provides sharks with their immunity to cancer.

Cartilage is different from other types of tissue, like bones and muscles, in that it is avascularmeaning that it does not contain any blood vessels. This explains why broken bones and injured muscles, with their rich blood supply, can heal in a few weeks, but badly torn cartilage in the knee cannot repair itself and must be treated surgically. However, recent research that will be cited in this chapter indicates that the lack of blood vessels in shark cartilage may explain why sharks don't get cancer.

Bovine Cartilage

In the 1970s researchers discovered that an extract from scapular cartilage in calves inhibited the growth of cancerous tumors in animal models. (11) Unfortunately, research with bovine cartilage was discontinued due to its limited supply. Mammals contain only very small amounts of cartilage.

Now shark cartilage has been discovered, and exciting new research has shown that powdered shark cartilage is a powerful inhibitor of tumor growth. (10) The protein substance extracted from shark cartilage is similar to a compound found in bovine cartilage (from calves), which has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors. (13)

While a calfs body contains less than 0.6 percent cartilage, a shark is composed of 6 percent cartilage, or ten times as much. Additionally, large sharks are about ten times heavier than calves. It takes about 500 gm of calf cartilage to produce the same amount of tumor-inhibiting factor that can be obtained from .5 gram of shark cartilage. This makes shark cartilage one thousand times more potent than bovine cartilage, and a large shark may contain up to one hundred thousand times more tumor-inhibiting factor than a calf. (10)

How Tumors Grow

Solid tumors are formed by growing colonies of abnormal cells. As the tumor increases in size, it has to develop a network of blood vessels to provide it with an adequate blood supply and nourishment. The formation of this new network of blood vessels is called angiogenesis.

Dr. Judah Folkman of Children's Hospital of Boston and Harvard Medical School carried out pioneering research into the relationship between angiogenesis and tumor growth in cancer.

In 1987 he hypothesized that solid tumors are dependent on angiogenesis and that substances with antiangiogenetic activity could potentially be used to treat cancer. (4)

The production of a new capillary bed through angiogenesis (also called vascularization) provides the tumor with the increased blood supply and nutrients that it needs for its enormous rate of growth. Dr. Folkman's research showed that if a tumor cannot develop an extensive network of blood vessels to feed itself, it will not grow beyond the relatively small size of about 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter, about the size of a pinhead. (4) Tumors larger than this stopped growing when they were separated from their capillary bed. However, the same luihors resumed their rapid growth when their vascular network was restored. (5)

Mechanism of Action

These results led scientists to begin searching for substances that could prevent angiogenesis. The first real breakthrough was presented in a 1983 article in the journal Science titled "Shark Cartilage Contains Inhibitors of Tumor Angiogenesis," which proposed that "shark cartilage contains a substance that strongly inhibits the growth of new blood vessels toward solid tumors, thereby restricting tumor growth." (10)

The initial studies were performed with rabbits. Tiny pellets of shark cartilage extract were placed next to small tumors that had been implanted into the corneas of the eyes of rabbits. At the same time, for controls, tumors of the same size were implanted into the other eye without the cartilage pellet. This method was used because it is easy to observe the development of new capillaries in the cornea of the eye.

This study showed that shark cartilage successfully prevented tumors from growing new blood vessels, thereby restricting growth. This work reinforces the theory that the active substance in shark cartilage does not act directly on tumors, but starves them by depriving them of their blood supply and nourishment.

Another study examined transplanted tumors that were not allowed to develop new capillaries. Over a two-week period, there was no tumor growth. During the same period, tumors that were allowed to develop a network of new blood vessels underwent extremely rapid growth, increasing their volume by 16,000. (6)

Further Studies

After the discovery that some unknown substance in shark cartilage can inhibit the growth of transplanted tumors, the next step was to determine if this antitumor factor is active in humans and other mammals. Also, it had to be determined whether this angiogenesis inhibitor from shark cartilage is effective if given orally, or if it has to be administered by injection.

Initial research in this area was undertaken by Dr. G. Atassi at the Institut Jules Bordet in Brussels, Belgium, one of the largest and most prestigious cancer research centers in Europe. Atassi used what are called nude mice for his studies. These mice have been bred without an immune system, specifically for cancer research. They are able to accept and grow human cancers that are grafted under their skin.

Dr. Atassi transplanted human melanoma into his nude mice and, after waiting two days, began giving them dried shark cartilage powder orally. (7) After twenty-one days the tumors in the control group were growing at an exponential rate while the tumors in the mice receiving oral shark cartilage had progressed hardly at all.

Dr. Atassi's work clearly shows the direct relationship between angiogenesis and tumor growth. During the first fourteen days the untreated tumors were developing their capillary beds. After that the tumor's growth rate literally exploded. By contrast, the tumors in the mice treated with shark cartilage showed about a 40-percent shrinkage between day fourteen and day twenty-one because they were unable to nourish themselves. This demonstrates the ability of shark cartilage to inhibit angiogenesis and block tumor growth.

Preventing Metastasis

There is exciting research pointing to the possibility that the antiangiogenesis factor in shark cartilage may also prevent metastasis, the spreading of cancer. In 1988 Patricia D'Amore proposed that also metastasis may depend on the growth of new blood vessels. She reasoned that "since vascularization is so clearly essential for the establishment and subsequent growth of metas-tases, it seems equally obvious that inhibition of vascularization might be a way to prevent the formation of metastases." (1)

Research has demonstrated that the destruction of tumor tissue is exponentially related to the reduction of vascularization. (2, 3) This research showed that the destruction or prevention of a single capillary segment led to the death or inhibition of thousands of tumor cells.

Cartilage-derived Inhibitor  CDI

In 1990 researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology isolated and identified the antiangiogenesis factor in bovine cartilage as a macroprotein and named the substance cartilage-derived inhibitor (CDI). (12)

The abundance of this factor in shark cartilage, in contrast to cartilage from calves and other mammalian sources, makes sharks the best source of this tumor-growth inhibitor. It also explains why sharks have such a powerful immune system and don't get cancer.

Oral Administration

A study by Roscoe Van Zandt released in May 1992 and cited in Shares Don't Get Cancer (8) investigated the effect of shark cartilage on breast cancer. Eight women with advanced breast tumors received 30 to 60 grams of shark cartilage daily in oral doses. After six to eight weeks all women showed improvement in their condition, ranging from tissue death in the tumors to encapsulation of the tumors.

In Panama Dr. Ella Ferguson (8) recently treated two patients with advanced cancer by giving oral doses of shark cartilage. A patient with advanced liver cancer received 60 grams of shark cartilage daily and experienced complete remission of the tumor within eight weeks. The patient received no other treatment during this period.

The second patient had terminal lung cancer, with metastases to the bone and brain. Other treatments had been discontinued as ineffective. Initial treatment with oral doses of shark cartilage relieved the pain in the patient's chest and bone cancer sites. After three months the cancer continued to spread in the brain, and shark cartilage was administered rectally, ultimately to a level of 60 grams daily. The pain diminished, and other symptoms, such as double vision, cleared up; even symptomatic improvement in such advanced cancer is unusual. Research in the rectal administration of shark cartilage is the latest approach in the use of this new therapy.

Rectal Administration

The latest research with shark cartilage is very promising. In a preliminary study by Dr. I. William Lane, author of Shares Don't Get Cancer, eight terminal patients with a variety of cancers were selected to be treated solely with high dosages of shark cartilage administered rectally as a retention enema. (9) The lining of the rectum has a rich supply of capillaries, making it the most efficient and effective route of absorption in the human body.

This study was scheduled to run for eleven weeks, but the early and dramatic patient response prompted the authors to publish a preliminary report after only seven weeks. Each patient selected for this study was expected to live at least three months, but not more than six months.

Results of this pioneering study with rectal shark cartilage administration to eight terminal patients showed significant response in six cases and none in two cases. A follow-up of this study, in Shares Don't Get Cancer, reported that one of the patients who didn't seem to respond had his tumor removed surgically. (8) During surgery it was found that more than 60 percent of the tumor mass had gelatinized and died.

This research broke new ground on several fronts. It used high doses of powdered shark cartilage material, it used the rectal route of administration, and it proved effective in different types of advanced cancers in human subjects; most of the subjects were treated only with shark cartilage.

Case Studies

With terminal cancer patients, a positive response of 20-30 percent would have represented important results. However, an 87.5-percent response rate is cause for great hope in future cancer therapy. These patients were treated at the Contreras Hospital in Ti)uana, with shark cartilage supplied by Dr. Lane. Two of the cases with positive outcomes are briefly summarized below.

Patient #1. Female, age forty-eight, with Stage III inoperable, locally advanced uterine cervical cancer with metastasis to the bladder, causing substantial pain. Maximum doses of radiation ineffective. After eleven weeks of treatment with shark cartilage the patient had 100-percent reduction in size of tumor (only scar tissue palpable) and complete disappearance of pain.

Patient #2. Female, age thirty-two, with Stage IV very advanced uterine cervix cancer, plus kidney/blockage requiring permanent catheterization. She was the most serious case accepted, not expected to live three months. After seven weeks of shark cartilage treatment, the tumor had shrunk 40 percent and the urethral catheter was removed, and pain was nearly gone. Patient was eating better and gaining weight. At eleven weeks the tumor was 60-percent smaller.

The Cuban Study

Based on the success of the initial trial of rectally administered shark cartilage, doctors in Cuba began a larger test, with twenty-seven terminal cancer patients. On Sunday, February 28, 1993, the television show "60 Minutes" aired an interview with Dr. Lane by Mike Wallace on the results of this study.

The patients were all hospitalized and received Cartilade shark cartilage as their only form of therapy, to ensure standardization of the therapy. The Cuban doctors indicated that the results from this trial were very encouraging. Many of the patients experienced tumor regression, reduction or cessation of pain, and improvement in appetite, attitude, and quality of life.

For some patients the dosage was increased to as high as 100 to 120 grams per day, with excellent tolerance. The high dosages appear to be effective and can be administered either orally or as a rectal retention enema. No toxicity was noted at any time during the course of this study, and every patient reported effective pain reduction. This benefit alone could make shark cartilage an important item in cancer therapy m the future.

A second study/with 120 patients, is now beginning. The patients will be divided into four groups of 30 patients, with breast, prostate, bone, or brain cancer. If the results from the early studies utilizing high dosages hold up, shark cartilage will have a very important role to play in the treatment of many types of cancer.


Shark cartilage is an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, and contains significant amounts of a type of carbohydrate called mucopolysaccharide. Since powdered shark cartilage is classified as a food supplement, it is not controlled by the FDA and can be purchased at health-food stores without a prescription.

It is not my intent to promote individual brand name products. However, where shark cartilage is concerned, the type, or brand, is important. A specific processing procedure, using what is called a hammer mill, is required to pulverize the cartilage so that the active ingredient becomes available.

Dr. Robert Langer and his research team at MIT have a method called the CAM test for determining the amount of angiogenesis-inhibiting factor in shark cartilage preparations they have found that several shark cartilage products are without significant potency. Their test measures the membrane reaction of fertilized chicken embryos to the products.

Shark cartilage marketed under the trade name Cartilade is packaged in gelatin capsules containing 740 mg of 100-percent pure dried shark cartilage, with no additives or fillers. It is also available as a bulk powder in bottles containing 500 gm.

The Future

Dr. Lane has been an active force behind developing the technology to produce a shark cartilage product with a standardized potency. Dr. Lane has informed me that a new shark cartilage product is currently in development that will have nearly double the potency of the CDI now available. Besides the benefits of oral administration, availability without a prescription, non toxicity and lack of significant side effects, another important advantage of shark cartilage is that it can be used in conjunction with alternative and conventional cancer therapies without conflict.

Environmental Note

The shark is a scavenger with an important role in the ecological balance of the ocean. Although shark cartilage is an exciting new product, I was initially disturbed by the thought of large numbers of sharks being fished. I have since found out that most of the sharks used are caught off the coastal waters of Central America, primarily near Costa Rica, to be used by the local people for food; they eat the meat and throw away the cartilaginous skeleton. A plant has been built in Costa Rica, and now the shark cartilage is being processed and used instead of being discarded as useless.

Side Effects and Toxicity

Shark cartilage is a completely natural product that is safe and nontoxic. A small percentage of patients experience slight nausea taking shark cartilage on an empty stomach, and some complain that the quantity of capsules they have to take causes them to lose their appetite. These complaints are minor when compared with the side effects produced by most traditional forms of chemotherapy.


Until recently the usual dosage of shark cartilage for an adult was fifteen 740-mg capsules daily, taken orally, and administered in three doses of five capsules each. The capsules should be taken on an empty stomach about thirty minutes before meals so that the digestive acids in the stomach don't destroy the active ingredient.

The promising new findings about the effectiveness of high-dosage shark cartilage administered as a rectal retention enema necessitate updating the dosage recommendations. The current dosage recommendation is 1 gram of powdered shark cartilage per each 2 pounds of body weight, daily. Thus, a 120-pound individual would receive 60 grams of powdered shark cartilage rectally each day.

It is worth noting that the value of shark cartilage is not limited to cancer therapy. There is significant research demonstrating benefits from the administration of shark cartilage for other medical conditions, such as osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, psoriasis, and eczema.

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