An excellent study (published in May 2010, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute) demonstrates that shark cartilage is NOT an effective treatment for cancer. This study was conducted to evaluate the potential survival benefit of adding a pharmacologic-grade shark fin supplement to a conventional treatment regimen (chemotherapy and radiation therapy) in individuals with lung cancer. Sharks fins have been used as a cancer treatment (mainly in Asia) with the presumption that since sharks don’t develop cancer (this is actually not true- sharks do develop cancer), they must have an ‘anti-cancer’ substance within their tissues.
In the current study, sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, 379 patients with lung cancer (stage 3) were randomly assigned to either receive a shark fin supplement (4 ounces each day, twice-a-day during and after conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy) or a placebo (4 ounces each day, twice-a-day during and after the same conventional treatments.) The authors reported no difference in survival between the two groups (although this was not statistically different, the shark cartilage group actually had a lower survival rate; 14.4 months versus 15.6 months.)
I applaud the investigators of this study (and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, who granted the funding for this research) for conducting and supporting a high-quality complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) experiment that will save cancer patients money (shark fin supplements are not cheap)…and hopefully reduce the number of sharks killed for their fins.