The Chinese have believed in the
healing power of shark cartilage for over a hundred years. Shark fin soup
was, and still is, consumed not only for its taste but to cure a wide
assortment of ailments. Perhaps the Chinese are onto something. Modern
research indicates that shark cartilage may contain a key to curing cancer.
Despite the seemingly sudden interest in cartilage as a healing,
life-prolonging agent, cartilage research has been going on longer than you
may think. The step-by-step research process has already taken years, and it
is far from over.
• Over 40 years ago, Dr. John F Prudden theorized that cattle cartilage was
a natural healing agent for wounds and maybe even for cancer. After decades
of cartilage research, he was awarded the Linus Pauling Scientist of the
Year Award in 1995 for his efforts.
Dr. Prudden began by placing cattle cartilage into the wounds of rats. He
claimed that the wounds healed very quickly with little swelling. Since
then, he's given cartilage to over 100 people with cancer, and he believes
he's seen some miraculous recoveries.
• In the 1960s, Judah Folkman of Harvard Medical School theorized that the
growth of a tumor could be prevented if the growth of new blood vessels that
nourish the tumor could be stopped. Since cartilage usually contains no
blood vessels, he experimented with it and found that calf cartilage did
stop tumor growth.
• In 1990, Robert Langer, a doctor of science at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, identified a specific protein in cattle cartilage that
prevents the growth of the tiny blood vessels that provide nourishment to
tumors. He called this substance CDI (cartilage-derived inhibitor). Langer
is still trying to get at and make usable the substance that interferes with
blood vessel growth in shark cartilage.
Although cattle cartilage was the first to be identified as a potential
cancer fighter, most research has focused on shark cartilage. That's mainly
because shark cartilage is so plentiful. The shark's skeleton is made up
entirely of cartilage.
Chomps cancer? It's almost impossible to give cancer to a
shark, no matter what you expose it to. But it's highly unlikely that a
shark's good health has anything to do with its cartilage. For starters,
sharks have powerful immune systems. Unlike humans, they have certain
infection-fighting molecules that constantly course through their
If shark, or cattle, cartilage does fight cancer in humans, it probably
works by interfering with blood vessel growth. For a cancerous tumor to
grow, it needs new blood vessels to grow toward it. That's how the tumor
gets nourishment. This process is called angiogenesis. Cartilage contains a
protein that is supposedly anti-angiogenic, which means it inhibits the
growth of blood vessels.
According to MIT's Dr. Langer, shark cartilage has 1,000 times more of this
anti-angiogenic substance than cartilage from other animals. Since cancer
tumors need blood vessels to bring them nourishment, a substance that stops
blood vessel growth can, theoretically, stop tumor growth. Scientists have
identified more than two dozen substances in cartilage that interfere with
the growth of blood vessels.
Shark cartilage as a cancer cure may seem crazy, but penicillin once seemed
like a flaky idea, too. Many people found it hard to believe that a
substance found in mold could fight deadly infections and help prolong life.
On the other hand, shark cartilage may just be the current flash-in-the-pan
medical "miracle" of the day. Only time will tell.
Takes the ache out of arthritis. The collagen found in
cartilage may help with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In one small
study, people with rheumatoid arthritis stopped taking their medicine and
started taking collagen derived from chicken cartilage. Most people reported
a decrease in the number of swollen and tender joints. In fact, almost a
quarter of the study participants experienced a total remission of the
Arthritis researchers have experimented with cattle cartilage, too. They've
had good results in a number of clinical trials.
Speeds wound healing. Studies have found that cattle cartilage
may help wounds heal faster.