Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Study: Shark Cartilage No Help for Cancer

Drug Derived From Shark Cartilage Did Not Extend Lives of Lung Cancer Patients
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 26, 2010 -- Hopes that shark cartilage would prove to be a useful treatment for cancer were not borne out in one of the most rigorously designed and executed studies of an alternative therapy ever conducted.

Adding a drug derived from shark cartilage to standard cancer treatments did not improve survival among patients with late-stage lung cancer in the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Shark cartilage has been touted as a potential alternative or complementary cancer treatment for several decades. Dozens of shark cartilage products are sold as dietary supplements, but almost none have been studied in humans.

Testing the Usefulness of Shark Cartilage

The trial examined a carefully formulated and regulated liquid shark cartilage product developed as a drug, rather than one of the commercially available, but unregulated, supplements.

Researchers from multiple academic and community cancer centers in the U.S. and Canada enrolled almost 400 patients with inoperable non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the study.

Half received standard chemotherapy and radiation, and half received standard treatment and the shark cartilage drug, known as AE-941.

No difference was seen in overall survival, progression-free survival, time-to-disease progression, and tumor response rates between the two groups.

Patients who got the shark cartilage treatment lived for an average of 14.4 months, which was a month less than the average survival of patients who did not take shark cartilage.

The study was published online today and it will appear in the June 16 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"It is clear from these findings that this pharmaceutical-grade shark cartilage extract is not an effective treatment for this cancer," study researcher Charles Lu, MD, tells WebMD.

Shark Cartilage Still Widely Used

Cancer is fueled by the growth of new blood vessels in a process known as angiogenesis. Cartilage contains no blood vessels and has been shown in some lab studies to slow blood vessel growth.

The idea that cartilage may stop or slow the growth of cancer was first proposed in the 1950s by a New York surgeon who also claimed that powdered cow cartilage could speed surgical wound healing.

Today on WebMD

Broken cigarette
Do you know the myths from the facts?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
cancer fighting foods
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Lung Cancer Surgery Options