Alternative and complementary therapies may be
referred to as "unproven", "nontoxic", "unorthodox",
or "unconventional" therapies, and represent
methods which do not have a scientifically-proven
basis. The following information is intended to help
people with cancer and their families make
decisions about the use of such treatments. The
Anti-Cancer Foundation does not, however, endorse
alternative cancer therapies.
We recommend you read this information sheet
together with "Making An Informed Choice".
Rationale / Background / Claims
- Tumours cannot grow without a network of
blood vessels to nourish them and to
remove waste products.
- Inhibiting the development of new blood
vessels (angiogenesis) in tumours may be a
potential anti-cancer therapy.
- As cartilage does not contain blood vessels, it
was reasoned that it may have an inherent
mechanism for preventing angiogenesis.
Supporters believe that a protein present in the
cartilage is responsible for this action.
The cartilage theoretically should be most
effective against fast-growing, highly
vascularised tumours, such as those of the
breast, cervix, central nervous system and liver.
The number of cancers found in sharks is
quoted as being insignificant.
What does the therapy involve?
Toxicity / Risks
- Shark cartilage is available as either pills or
loose powder. Powdered cartilage can be taken
either orally or rectally.
Depending on a person's weight, the dosage
could range from 40g to 90g per day.
When taken orally in the form of the powder, it
is mixed with either water, milk, vegetable juice
(eg carrot, tomato) or with a fruit nectar (eg
pineapple, apricot). The powder is mixed with
the juice in a blender to produce a frothy shake.
These shakes are consumed three to four times
daily, usually 30 minutes prior to meals.
Theoretically, when taken on an empty
stomach, the drink passes rapidly through the
stomach acids, thus avoiding breakdown of the
Shark cartilage has been deemed as non-toxic
by the US Food and Drug Administration
Some "copycat" shark cartilage products have
no anti-angiogenic effect, while others have a
high bacterial count as a result of poor
Children, pregnant women, women planning to
become pregnant and those who have had
recent surgery or major illnesses, should not
take shark cartilage as it may prevent the
formation of new blood vessels required for
growth and repair.
Costs and Commitment
Human trials on the effectiveness of shark
cartilage in the treatment of cancer have been
conducted in Cuba and Mexico. The results of
these studies have not been published in
reputable medical journals.
There is no conclusive evidence that humans
can effectively absorb the protein components
in the cartilage.
. . .
The cost is approximately $40 for 100 capsules, $130
for 400 capsules, or $100 for 200g of powder.
Studies in humans have only been published in news
articles. Full data are unavailable, and the studies have
not been subjected to peer review. Due to the lack of
credible scientific evidence at this time supporting this
therapy, shark cartilage cannot be recommended as a
treatment for cancer.
For further information contact the:
Anti-Cancer Foundation of South Australia
(ABN 29 053 873 822)
202 Greenhill Road, Eastwood SA 5063
PO Box 929, Unley SA 5061
Tel: (08) 8291 4111
1800 188 070 country callers
Fax: (08) 8291 4122
This resource was produced in 1998 by Sally