Shark Cartilage Does Not Treat Lung Cancer, Study Shows

Author:  Falishia Sloan

Institution:  Eastern Virginia Medical School
Date:  June 2007

Scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have found that an extract of shark cartilage, AE-941, is not a beneficial therapeutic agent for those with advanced non-small cell lung cancer when used in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. The results, which principal investigator Charles Lu presented this week at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, contradict both preclinical studies and popular belief.

The study included 384 patients from the U.S. and Canada who were newly diagnosed and untreated for Stage III non-small cell lung cancer. All patients were given induction chemotherapy and chemo-radiation, and each was given four ounces of the liquid form of either the shark cartilage or a placebo to take twice daily. Patients continued taking these liquids after finishing their standard therapy.

The scientists did not find a large difference in the survival of patients given the placebo and patients given the shark cartilage,14.4 months for those who received the shark cartilage vs. 15.6 month for those who received the placebo.

"Clearly, these results demonstrate that AE-941 is not an effective therapeutic agent for lung cancer," Lu said. "So, too, these findings have to cast major skepticism on shark cartilage products that are being sold for profit and have no data to support their efficacy as cancer-fighting agent."

Popular belief has long held that shark cartilage could hold some answers to treating cancer, since cartilaginous fish rarely have cancer. In addition, cartilage is free of blood vessels and preclinical studies focusing extracts have suggested that cartilage it contains some sorts of inhibitors to angiogenesis, a key component of cancer.

According to Lu, associate professor in M.D. Anderson's Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, AE-941, also known as Neovastat, helped patients in Early Phase I and II studies in lung and renal cancers when given in higher doses. "This is the first large Phase III randomized trial of shark cartilage as a cancer agent," he explained. "A unique and important aspect about this shark cartilage study was that this product, Neovastat, was never sold over-the-counter, unlike other shark cartilage compounds previously studied."

Written by Falishia Sloan