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Cancer Health Center

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Cartilage (Bovine and Shark) (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Human / Clinical Studies

Since the early 1970s, at least a dozen clinical trials (MDA-ID-99303, NCCTG-971151, and AETERNA-AE-MM-00-02) of cartilage as a treatment for people with cancer have been (or are being) conducted;[1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15] (refer to the table at the end of this section) however, results from only seven studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.[1,2,4,8,9,16] It is not clear whether any of the patients in these studies were children.

In the first randomized trial published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, 83 incurable breast cancer and colorectal cancer patients were randomly assigned to receive either shark cartilage or placebo, in addition to standard care. No difference was observed in survival or quality of life between those receiving shark cartilage and those receiving placebo.[8] Additional clinical studies are under way; however, the cumulative evidence to date is inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of cartilage as a treatment for people with cancer.

Powdered Cartilage Products

Two of the three published clinical studies evaluated the use of Catrix, the previously mentioned (refer to the Laboratory/Animal/Preclinical Studies section of this summary for more information) powdered preparation of bovine (cow) cartilage, as a treatment for various solid tumors.[1,2] One of these studies was a case series that included 31 patients;[1] the other was a phase II clinical trial that included 9 patients.[2]

In the case series,[1] all patients were treated with subcutaneously injected and/or oral Catrix; however, three patients (one with squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and two with basal cell carcinoma of the skin) were also treated with topical preparations. The individual dose, the total dose, and the duration of Catrix treatment in this series varied from patient to patient; however, the minimum treatment duration was 7 months, and the maximum duration was more than 10 years. Eighteen patients had been treated with conventional therapy (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy) within 1 year of the start of Catrix treatment; nine patients received conventional therapy concurrently with Catrix treatment; and seven patients received conventional therapy both prior to and during Catrix treatment. It was reported that 19 patients had a complete response, 10 patients had a partial response, and 1 patient had stable disease following Catrix treatment. The remaining patient did not respond to cartilage therapy. Eight of the patients with a complete response received no prior or concurrent conventional therapy. Approximately half of the patients with a complete response eventually experienced recurrent cancer.

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