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Cartilage is a tough connective tissue found in many parts of the body. Your ears and nose are made from cartilage, and so is the gliding surface in your joints.
One constituent of cartilage, chondroitin , is widely used in Europe to treat osteoarthritis. Cartilage itself has also been proposed as a treatment for osteoarthritis.
The most commonly used forms of cartilage come from cows (bovine cartilage) and sharks. Provocative evidence had suggested that shark cartilage might have some value in the treatment of cancer. However, properly designed studies have so far failed to find benefit.
Unless your uncle works at a slaughterhouse or you're brave enough to prepare your own cartilage from whole sharks, the preferred source of cartilage is your healthfood store or pharmacy, where you can purchase this supplement in pill or powdered form.
Various doses of cartilage have been used in different studies, ranging from 2.5 mg to 60 g daily.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Cartilage?
A number of test tube experiments have found that shark cartilage extracts prevent new blood vessels from forming in chick embryos and other test systems. 1 2 3 4 5 As mentioned above, this effect could conceivably mean that shark cartilage might fight cancer . These findings have led to other test tube experiments , animal studies , and preliminary human trials to investigate the possible anticancer effects of shark cartilage. The results suggest that a particular liquid shark cartilage extract might be useful in the treatment of various cancers, including lung, prostate, and breast cancer. 6 7 8 9 10 However, not all studies have been positive. 11 In any case, only double-blind, placebo-controlled trials can provide conclusive data. (For information on why such studies are essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? ) So far, the only reported studies of this type on shark cartilage for cancer failed to find benefit. 12
- Dupont E, Savard PE, Jourdain C, Juneau C, Thibodeau A, Ross N, Marenus K, Maes DH, Pelletier G, Sauder DN. Antiangiogenic properties of a novel shark cartilage extract: potential role in the treatment of psoriasis. J Cutan Med Surg. 2(3):146-52.
- Sheu JR, Fu CC, Tsai ML, Chung WJ. Effect of U-995, a potent shark cartilage-derived angiogenesis inhibitor, on anti-angiogenesis and anti-tumor activities. Anticancer Res. 18(6A):4435-41.
- Davis PF, He Y, Furneaux RH, Johnston PS, Rüger BM, Slim GC. Inhibition of angiogenesis by oral ingestion of powdered shark cartilage in a rat model. Microvasc Res. 54(2):178-82.
- Oikawa T, Ashino-Fuse H, Shimamura M, Koide U, Iwaguchi T. A novel angiogenic inhibitor derived from Japanese shark cartilage (I). Extraction and estimation of inhibitory activities toward tumor and embryonic angiogenesis. Cancer Lett. 51(3):181-6.
- McGuire TR, Kazakoff PW, Hoie EB, Fienhold MA. Antiproliferative activity of shark cartilage with and without tumor necrosis factor-alpha in human umbilical vein endothelium. Pharmacotherapy. 16(2):237-44.
- Riviere M, Latreille J, Falardeau P, et al. AE-941 (Neovastat), an inhibitor of angiogenesis: phase I/II cancer clinical trial results. Cancer Invest. 1999;17(suppl 1):16-17.
- Jamali M-A, Riviere M, Falardeau P, et al. Effect of AE-941 (neovastat), an angiogenesis inhibitor, in the Lewis lung carcinoma metastatic model, efficacy, toxicity prevention and survival. Clin Invest Med. 1998;(suppl):S16.
- Riviere M, Falardeau P, Latreille J, et al. Phase I/II lung cancer clinical trial results with AE-941 (neovastat), an inhibitor of angiogenesis. Clin Invest Med. 1998;(suppl):S14.
- Riviere M, Alaoui-Jamali M, Falardeau P, et al. Neovastat: an inhibitor of angiogenesis with anti-cancer activity. Presented at: American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 39; March 28-April 1, 1998; New Orleans, LA.
- Blasecki J, Alaoui-Jamali M, Wang T, et al. Oral administration of Neovastat inhibits tumor progression in animal models of progressive tumor growth and metastasis. Int J Oncol. 1997;11(suppl):934.
- Horsman MR, Alsner J, Overgaard J. The effect of shark cartilage extracts on the growth and metastatic spread of the SCCVII carcinoma. Acta Oncol. 37(5):441-5.
- Loprinzi CL, Levitt R, Barton DL, Sloan JA, Atherton PJ, Smith DJ, Dakhil SR, Moore DF Jr, Krook JE, Rowland KM Jr, Mazurczak MA, Berg AR, Kim GP, North Central Cancer Treatment Group. Evaluation of shark cartilage in patients with advanced cancer: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group trial. Cancer. 104(1):176-82.