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Cartilage (Bovine and Shark) (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Adverse Effects

The side effects associated with cartilage therapy are generally described as mild to moderate in severity. Inflammation at injection sites, dysgeusia, fatigue, nausea, dyspepsia, fever, dizziness, and edema of the scrotum have been reported after treatment with the bovine (cow) cartilage product Catrix.[1,2,3] Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and/or bloating, constipation, hypotension, hyperglycemia, generalized weakness, and hypercalcemia have been associated with the use of powdered shark cartilage.[4,5,6] The high level of calcium in shark cartilage may contribute to the development of hypercalcemia. Reviewed in [5,7,8] In addition, one case of hepatitis has been associated with the use of powdered shark cartilage.[9] Nausea, vomiting, and dyspepsia are the most commonly reported side effects following treatment with AE-941/Neovastat, the aqueous extract of shark cartilage. Reviewed in [10]


  1. Prudden JF: The treatment of human cancer with agents prepared from bovine cartilage. J Biol Response Mod 4 (6): 551-84, 1985.
  2. Romano CF, Lipton A, Harvey HA, et al.: A phase II study of Catrix-S in solid tumors. J Biol Response Mod 4 (6): 585-9, 1985.
  3. Puccio C, Mittelman A, Chun P, et al.: Treatment of metastatic renal cell carcinoma with Catrix. [Abstract] Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 13: A-769, 246, 1994.
  4. Miller DR, Anderson GT, Stark JJ, et al.: Phase I/II trial of the safety and efficacy of shark cartilage in the treatment of advanced cancer. J Clin Oncol 16 (11): 3649-55, 1998.
  5. Leitner SP, Rothkopf MM, Haverstick L, et al.: Two phase II studies of oral dry shark cartilage powder (SCP) with either metastatic breast or prostate cancer refractory to standard treatment. [Abstract] Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 17: A-240, 1998.
  6. Rosenbluth RJ, Jennis AA, Cantwell S, et al.: Oral shark cartilage in the treatment of patients with advanced primary brain tumors. [Abstract] Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 18: A-554, 1999.
  7. Reviews of Therapies: Biologic/Organic/Pharmacologic Therapies: Cartilage. Houston, Tex: M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 2003. Available online. Last accessed August 10, 2012.
  8. Jungi WF: Dangerous nutrition. Support Care Cancer 11 (4): 197-8, 2003.
  9. Ashar B, Vargo E: Shark cartilage-induced hepatitis. Ann Intern Med 125 (9): 780-1, 1996.
  10. Falardeau P, Champagne P, Poyet P, et al.: Neovastat, a naturally occurring multifunctional antiangiogenic drug, in phase III clinical trials. Semin Oncol 28 (6): 620-5, 2001.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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