What is it?
Shark cartilage (tough elastic tissue that provides support, much as bone does) used for medicine comes primarily from sharks caught in the Pacific Ocean. Several types of extracts are made from shark cartilage including squalamine lactate, AE-941, and U-995.
Shark cartilage is most famously used for cancer, including a type of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, that is more common in people with HIV infection. Shark cartilage is also used for arthritis, psoriasis, wound healing, damage to the retina of the eye due to diabetes, and inflammation of the intestine (enteritis).
Some people apply shark cartilage directly to the skin for arthritis and psoriasis.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for SHARK CARTILAGE are as follows:
Likely ineffective for...
- Cancer. Most research shows that taking shark cartilage by mouth does not benefit people with advanced, previously treated cancers of the breast, colon, lung, prostate, and brain or advanced, previously treated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Studies of shark cartilage in people with less advanced cancer have not been published.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Age-related vision loss (age-related macular-degeneration). Early research suggests that taking a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941, Neovastat) for 24 weeks might improve or stabilize vision in people with age-related vision loss.
- Cancerous tumor called Kaposi sarcoma. There are reports that shark cartilage might decrease tumors called Kaposi sarcoma.
- Osteoarthritis. When applied to the skin, products containing shark cartilage in combination with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and camphor reportedly reduce arthritis symptoms. However, any symptom relief is most likely due to the effect of camphor and not the other ingredients. Additionally, there is no research showing that shark cartilage is absorbed through the skin.
- Psoriasis. Developing research suggests that a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941, Neovastat) might improve appearance and decrease itching of plaque psoriasis when taken by mouth or applied to the skin.
- Kidney cancer. Taking a specific shark cartilage extract (AE-941, Neovastat) by mouth seems to increase survival in patients with advanced kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma). This product has FDA “Orphan Drug status” for renal cell carcinoma. The Orphan Drug law gives drug makers special incentives to study drugs for rare conditions.
- Eye complications.
- Wound healing.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate shark cartilage for these uses.
Shark cartilage might help prevent tumor growth.
Shark cartilage is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken appropriately by mouth for up to 40 months or when applied to the skin for up to 8 weeks.
It can cause a bad taste in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, constipation, low blood pressure, dizziness, high blood sugar, high calcium levels, and fatigue. Some products have an unpleasant odor and taste.
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking shark cartilage if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
High calcium levels (hypercalcemia): Shark cartilage might increase calcium levels, so it should not be used by people whose calcium levels are already too high.
Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
Shark cartilage might increase the immune system. By increasing the immune system, shark cartilage might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.
Shark cartilage might raise calcium levels. There is a concern that using it along with calcium supplements might make calcium levels too high.
Acidic fruit juice such as orange, apple, grape, or tomato, can lower the strength of shark cartilage as the minutes pass. If shark cartilage is added to a fruit juice, it should be added right before use.
The appropriate dose of shark cartilage depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for shark cartilage. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
AE-941, Cartilage de Requin, Cartilage de Requin du Pacifique, Cartilago de Tiburon, Collagène Marin, Extrait de Cartilage de Requin, Liquide de Cartilage Marin, Marine Collagen, Marine Liquid Cartilage, MSI-1256F, Neovastat, Pacific Shark Cartilage, Poudre de Cartilage de Requin, Shark Cartilage Powder, Shark Cartilage Extract, Sphyrna lewini, Squalus acanthias.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Shark cartilage page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/909.html.
- Turcotte P. Phase I dose escalation study of AE-941, an antiangiogenic agent, in age-related macular degeneration patient. Retina Society Conference (Hawaii, December 2, 1999).
- Saad F, Klotz L, Babaian R, Lacombe L, Champagne P, and Dupont E. Phase I/II trial on AE-941 (Neovastat) in patients with metastatic refractory prostate cancer (abstract presentation). Canadian Urological Association Annual Meeting (June 24-27, 2001).
- Dupont E, Savard RE, Jourdain C, Juneau C, Thibodeau A, Ross N, and et al. Antiangiogenic properties of a novel shark cartilage extract: potential role in the treatment of psoriasis. J Cutan Med Surg 1998;2:146-152.
- Milner M. A guide to the use of shark cartilage in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory joint diseases. Amer Chiropractor 1999;21:40-42.
- Bargahi, A., Hassan, Z. M., Rabbani, A., Langroudi, L., Noori, S. H., and Safari, E. Effect of shark cartilage derived protein on the NK cells activity. Immunopharmacol.Immunotoxicol. 2011;33:403-409. View abstract.
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- Loprinzi CL, Levitt R, Barton DL, et al. Evaluation of shark cartilage in patients with advanced cancer: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group trial. Cancer 2005;104:176-82. View abstract.
- Batist G, Patenaude F, Champagne P, et al. Neovastat (AE-941) in refractory renal cell carcinoma patients: report of a phase II trial with two dose levels. Ann Oncol 2002;13:1259-63.. View abstract.
- FDA List of Orphan Designations and Approvals. http://www.fda.gov/orphan/DESIGNAT/list.htm (Accessed 27 October 2003).
Sauder DN, Dekoven J, Champagne P, et al. Neovastat (AE-941), an inhibitor of angiogenesis: Randomized phase I/II clinical trial results in patients with plaque psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2002;47:535-41.. View abstract.
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- Falardeau P, Champagne P, Poyet P, et al. Neovastat, a naturally occurring multifunctional antiangiogenic drug, in phase III clinical trials. Semin Oncol 2001;28:620-5.. View abstract.
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- Anon. AEterna announces the commencement of patient enrollment for the NIH - sponsored phase III clinical trial of AE-941/Neovastat in the treatment of lung cancer. Aeterna 2000 News Release 2000 May 17.
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- Fontenele JB, Viana GS, Xavier-Filho J, de-Alencar JW. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity of a water-soluble fraction from shark cartilage. Braz J Med Biol Res 1996;29:643-6. View abstract.
- Fontenele JB, Araujo GB, de Alencar JW, Viana GS. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of shark cartilage are due to a peptide molecule and are nitric oxide (NO) system dependent. Biol Pharm Bull 1997;20:1151-4. View abstract.
- Gomes EM, Souto PR, Felzenszwalb I. Shark-cartilage containing preparation protects cells against hydrogen peroxide induced damage and mutagenesis. Mutat Res 1996;367:204-8. View abstract.
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- Bhargava P, Trocky N, Marshall J, et al. A phase I safety, tolerance and pharmacokinetic study of rising dose, rising duration continuous infusion of MSI-1256F (Squalamine Lactate) in patients with advanced cancer. Proc Am Soc Clinical Oncol 1999;18:A698.
- Kalidas M, Hammond LA, Patnaik P, et al. A phase I and pharmacokinetic (PK) study of the angiogenesis inhibitor, squalamine lactate (MSI-1256F). Proc Am Soc Clinical Oncol 2000;19:A698.
- Patnaik A, Rowinsky E, Hammond L, et al. A phase I and pharmacokinetic (PK) study of the unique angiogenesis inhibitor, squalamine lactate (MSI-1256F). Proc Am Soc Clinical Oncol 1999;18:A622.
- Evans WK, Latreille J, Batist G, et al. AE-941, an inhibitor of angiogenesis: rationale for development in combination with induction chemotherapy/radiotherapy in patients with non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Proc Am Soc Clinical Oncol 1999;18:A1938.
- Rosenbluth RJ, Jennis AA, Cantwell S, DeVries J. Oral shark cartilage in the treatment of patients with advanced primary brain tumors. A phase II pilot study. Proc Am Soc Clinical Oncol 1999;18:A554.
- Leitner SP, Rothkopf MM, Haverstick L, et al. Two phase II studies of oral dry shark cartilage powder (SCP) in patients (pts) with either metastatic breast or prostate cancer refractory to standard treatment. Proc Am Soc Clinical Oncol 1998;17:A240.
- Natl Cancer Institute CancerNet. Cartilage website: www.cancer.gov (Accessed 18 August 2000).
- Berbari P, Thibodeau A, Germain L, et al Antiangiogenic effects of the oral administration of liquid cartilage extract in humans. J Surg Res 1999;87:108-13. View abstract.
- Hillman JD, Peng AT, Gilliam AC, Remick SC. Treatment of Kaposi Sarcoma with oral administration of shark cartilage in a Human Herpes virus 8-seropositive, Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Seronegative homosexual man. Arch Dermatol 2001;137:1149-52. View abstract.
- Neovastat clinical trial abstracts. Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 92nd annual meeting. March 27, 2001.
- Wilson JL. Topical shark cartilage subdues psoriasis: research review and preliminary clinical results. Altern Complement Ther 2000;6:291.
- 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 1998;16:3649-55. View abstract.
- Lane IW, Comac L. Sharks don't get cancer. Garden City, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1992.
- Hunt TJ, Connelly JF. Shark cartilage for cancer treatment. Am J Health Syst Pharm 1995;52:1756-60. View abstract.
- Ashar B, Vargo E. Shark cartilage-induced hepatitis [letter]. Ann Intern Med 1996;125:780-1. View abstract.
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Last reviewed - 09/16/2014
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