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Nutrition Supplement: Shark Cartilage and Cancer Treatment

Vitamins minerals and more: Shark cartilage may prove useful in cancer treatments as a way to limit tumor growth.
By Monica Emerich and Elizabeth Bertani
July/August 1997
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved human trials of shark cartilage as a cancer treatment, a step toward its acceptance as a legitimate therapy. Dr. I. William Lane holds a doctorate in agricultural biochemistry and nutrition and has been researching the anticancer effects of shark cartilage since the late 1980s. Founder and president of Cartilage Consultants, Inc., he received the U.S. patent on shark cartilage in 1992.

Herbs for Health—Please describe your research.

Dr. I. William Lane—My research started in 1987 when Dr. Henri Tagnon, head of the Institut Jules Bordet in Brussels, Belgium, a major cancer research center, listened to my theories and offered assistance. We ran animal studies which showed that oral administration of shark cartilage completely inhibits tumor growth. After that, we conducted human studies in Mexico that achieved good success with reducing tumors in breast-cancer patients. From there we did the now-­famous Cuban study, covered by Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes. In that study, we administered shark cartilage to twenty-nine patients suffering from various terminal cancers (including prostate, breast, central nervous system, stomach, liver, ovary, uterine, esophagal, tonsil, and bladder). Today, 48 percent of these patients are completely cancer-free.

HH—How does shark cartilage work?

IWL—By cutting off the network of vessels that nourish tumors so they cannot thrive (a process known as antiangiogenesis). But shark cartilage only prevents new vessels from forming; it doesn’t affect vessels that already exist. Without a feeding network of new blood capillaries, new tumors can’t grow and existing tumors wither because their fragile blood vessels break down but aren’t replaced.

HH—What are the components in shark cartilage?

IWL—Strands of active protein, called macroproteins, appear to carry the angiogenesis inhibitor. The strands are pulverized and dried for use, but the heat must be used sparingly because it can denature the proteins. The resulting powder must be fine enough to be absorbed into the system quickly to prevent the protein from being digested by enzymes. It is the whole protein that is effective in fighting cancer.

HH—In your view, what other health benefits does shark cartilage have?

IWL—It significantly reduces pain, which seems to be its first effect when used in cancer treatment. As the tumors shrink, so does the pain. At a therapeutic dosage level, quality of life improves within five to six weeks after administration of shark cartilage. At nine weeks, pain is reduced and many patients are able to reduce or give up their morphine intake. At fourteen to eighteen weeks, we generally see the death of the tumor.

HH—What sort of therapeutic dosages are we speaking of?

IWL—In the Jules Bordet studies, for a 110-pound person, we used an equivalent of 2 ounces or 50 g of shark cartilage daily. Once therapeutic measures succeed, the patient is put on a maintenance dosage which can range from 8 to 12 g a day. The product works best when administered ­orally or rectally.

HH—Some people are concerned that the popularity of shark cartilage could result in the mass killing ­of sharks.

IWL—No additional sharks need be killed for this substance. Today, five to seven million sharks are caught every year for their fins. Fishermen cut off the fins and throw the rest away. However, we have been successful at getting fishermen to save the cartilage. It must be properly processed so supplements employ only healthy, not decaying, cartilage.


“Nutrition Supplement: Vitamins, minerals, and more” is offered as a bimonthly supplement to Herbs for Health and is written by Monica Emerich and Elizabeth Bertani of Natural Information, 2888 Bluff Street, Suite 301, Boulder, Colorado, 80301. Design by Bren Frisch. “Nutrition Supplement” is offered as an educational service, not a source of medical advice or guide for self-medication. Please consult a qualified health-care professional for treatment of any serious health problems.


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