Be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly
regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength,
purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain shark cartilage.
Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals
using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with
their pharmacists or health care providers before starting.
Scientists have studied shark cartilage for the following health problems:
Historically, it was thought that sharks did not get cancer (we know now
that this is not true). Therefore, it was thought that taking shark cartilage
supplements may work against cancer. There have been several studies using
shark cartilage in humans with various types of cancer, and most of the current
evidence shows shark cartilage may have some efficacy in preventing angiogenesis
(formation of new blood vessels by the tumor that supports growth and spread
of cancer to other parts of the body). A randomized, controlled, multicenter
trial reported a significantly longer survival time in patients receiving
shark cartilage at a higher dose than at a lower dose. The shark cartilage
was in the form of Neovastat, an orally active extract from shark cartilage
tissue, but the amount of shark cartilage provided in the doses given in
the study was not indicated. This study included only 22 patients in the
analysis, even though 144 were given the drug. Currently, many animal studies
and studies done in test tubes suggest shark cartilage would be effective
in preventing angiogenesis. However, larger studies need to be done in humans
before recommendations can be made. Possible forms of cancer that may respond
to treatment with shark cartilage include kidney cancer, lung cancer and
multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow), but safety and efficacy have
not been confirmed. Check with your doctor and pharmacist before taking shark
Researchers have tested shark cartilage for psoriasis, both by mouth and
on the skin as a cream. These studies have been small and low quality. At
this time, there is no reliable evidence to recommend shark cartilage for
One small study using shark cartilage in patients with macular degeneration
suggested good results. More studies are needed before a recommendation can
Animal studies suggest that shark cartilage may decrease inflammation and
pain, but there are no reliable studies in humans.
Shark cartilage has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition
or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied
in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or
effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are
potentially very serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a
health care provider before using shark cartilage for any unproven use.
|Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)
Immune system stimulant
People with a history of allergies to shark cartilage or any of its ingredients
(including chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine) should avoid taking products
containing shark cartilage. Patients with sulfur allergy should use caution
because products may be sulfated.
Shark cartilage is well tolerated by most people for up to 18 months. Some
patients receiving a shark cartilage product called Neovastat reported few
side effects, even after being exposed to the product for more than four
years. Mild stomach discomfort, dizziness and fatigue may occur. There are
rare cases of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and high levels of calcium
in the blood (hypercalcemia). In theory, slower wound healing and irregular
heartbeats could occur when taking shark cartilage. One study reports taste
alteration to be the most frequent side effect, seen in 13.6 percent of patients.
An existing case report blames inhaled shark cartilage dust for the death
of a 38-year-old male, with an autopsy confirming asthma as cause of death.
Shark cartilage should be considered an occupational safety hazard in facilities
that may use it.
Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding
Shark cartilage should be avoided by pregnant or breast-feeding women because
of theoretical concerns that it may affect the growth of developing blood
vessels and cause birth defects.
Interactions with drugs, herbs and other supplements have not been thoroughly
studied. The interactions listed below have been reported in scientific
publications. If you are taking prescription drugs, speak with your health
care provider or pharmacist before using herbs or dietary supplements.
Interactions With Drugs
Shark cartilage products are rich in calcium. If used with calcium supplements
or drugs that raise calcium levels in the blood, such as hydrochlorothiazide
(Hydrodiuril), shark cartilage may cause serious problems (for example, irregular
heartbeats). In theory, shark cartilage may add to the effects of drugs that
decrease the growth of blood vessels or healing of wounds. Examples are
thalidomide and interferon. Shark cartilage may lower blood sugar levels.
Caution is advised if you also are taking drugs that may lower blood sugar
levels. Patients taking oral drugs for diabetes or using insulin should be
monitored closely by their health care provider while using shark cartilage.
Dosing adjustments may be necessary. In theory, very large doses of shark
cartilage may actually increase blood sugar levels.
Interactions With Herbs And Dietary Supplements
Shark cartilage may lower blood sugar levels. People using other herbs or
supplements that may alter blood sugar levels, such as
melon (Momordica charantia), should be monitored closely by their
health care provider while using shark cartilage. Dosing adjustments may
be necessary. In theory, shark cartilage may raise blood sugars levels if
taken with glucosamine. Shark cartilage is rich in calcium and should not
be combined with calcium supplements. Other trace elements that are found
in higher amounts in shark cartilage than in other fishes and in other animal
bones include iron, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, molybdenum, titanium
The doses listed below are based on scientific research, publications
or traditional use. Because most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly
studied or monitored, safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands
may be made differently, with variable ingredients even within the same brand.
Combination products often contain small amounts of each ingredient and may
not be effective. Appropriate dosing should be discussed with your health
care provider before starting therapy; always read the recommendations on
a product's label. The dosing for unproven uses should be approached cautiously,
because scientific information is limited in these areas.
To increase absorption, shark cartilage should be taken on an empty stomach.
Acidic fruit juices, such as apple, grape, orange, tomato or cranberry juice,
should be avoided for 15 to 30 minutes before and after taking shark cartilage.
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Ground cartilage extract: A dose of 80 to 100 grams per day or one
to 1.3 grams per kilogram of weight per day, divided into two to four doses,
has been taken by mouth.
Children (Younger Than 18): Shark cartilage should be avoided
in children because of concerns that it may interfere with normal growth.
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Ground cartilage extract: A dose of 0.4 to 0.5 grams per kilogram
of weight per day for four weeks has been taken by mouth. If symptoms improve,
reduce the dose to 0.2 to 0.3 grams per kilogram of weight per day.
Skin cream: A dose of 5 percent to 30 percent cream has been applied
to the skin daily for four to six weeks.
Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Ground cartilage extract: A dose of 0.2 to two grams per kilogram
of weight per day, divided into two to three doses, has been taken by mouth.
Although shark cartilage has been suggested for many diseases, there is no
scientific evidence to support its use for any medical condition. It should
be avoided by pregnant or breast-feeding women, by children and by patients
with a history of diabetes or high calcium blood levels. Shark cartilage
may increase the risk of bleeding or high calcium blood levels caused by
other drugs. Consult your health care provider immediately if you have side
The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff
at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence.
The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with
final editing approved by Natural Standard.
Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews
of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research
Selected Scientific Studies: Shark Cartilage
Natural Standard reviewed more than 145 articles to prepare the professional
monograph from which this version was created.
Some of the more recent studies are listed below:
Anonymous. AE 941. Drugs R D 2004;5(2):83-89. Review.
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;Aug, 13(8):1259-1263.
Bukowski RM. AE-941, a multifunctional antiangiogenic compound: trials in
renal cell carcinoma. Expert Opin Investig Drugs 2003;Aug, 12(8):1403-1411.
Cho J, Kim Y. Sharks: a potential source of antiangiogenic factors and tumor
treatments. Mar Biotechnol (NY) 2002;Dec, 4(6):521-525.
Dredge K. AE-941 (AEterna). Curr Opin Investig Drugs 2004;Jun, 5(6):668-677.
Dupont E, Falardeau P, Mousa SA, et al. Antiangiogenic and antimetastatic
properties of Neovastat (AE-941), an orally active extract derived from cartilage
tissue. Clin Exp Metastasis 2002;19(2):145-153.
Dupont E, Savard RE, Jourdain C, et al. Antiangiogenic properties of a novel
shark cartilage extract: potential role in the treatment of psoriasis. J
Cutan Med Surg 1998;2(3):146-152.
Escudier B, Patenaude F, Bukowski R, et al. Rationale for a phase III clinical
trial with AE-941 (Neovastat ®) in metastatic renal cell carcinoma patients
refractory to immunotherapy. Ann Oncol 2000;11(Suppl 4):143-144.
Gingras D, Boivin D, Deckers C, et al. Neovastat: a novel antiangiogenic
drug for cancer therapy. Anticancer Drugs 2003;Feb, 14(2):91-96. Review.
Hassan ZM, Feyzi R, Sheikhian A, et al. Low molecular weight fraction of
shark cartilage can modulate immune responses and abolish angiogenesis. Int
Immunopharmacol 2005;Jun, 5(6):961-970.
Jamali MA, Riviere P, Falardeau A, et al. Effect of AE-941 (Neovastat), an
angiogenesis inhibitor, in the Lewis lung carcinoma metastatic model, efficacy,
toxicity prevention and survival. Clin Invest Med 1998;(Suppl):S16.
Kim M. Mercury, cadmium and arsenic contents of calcium dietary supplements.
Food Addit Contam 2004;Aug, 21(8):763-767.
Kralovec JA, Guan Y, Metera K, Carr RI. Immunomodulating principles from
shark cartilage: part 1. Isolation and biological assessment in vitro. Int
Immunopharmacol 2003;May, 3(5):657-669.
Leitner SP, Rothkopf MM, Haverstick DD, et al. Two phase II studies of oral
dry shark cartilage powder (SCP) in patients with either metastatic breast
or prostate cancer refractory to standard treatment. Amer Soc Clin Oncol
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
Ortega HG, Kreiss K, Schill DP, Weissman DN. Fatal asthma from powdering
shark cartilage and review of fatal occupational asthma literature. Am J
Ind Med 2002;Jul, 42(1):50-54. Review.
Riviere M, Alaoui-Jamali M, Falardeau P, et al. Neovastat: an inhibitor of
angiogenesis with anti-cancer activity. Proc Amer Assoc Cancer Res 1998;39:46.
Riviere M, Falardeau P, Latreille J, et al. Phase I/II lung cancer clinical
trial results with AE-941 (Neovastat) an inhibitor of angiogenesis. J Clin
Riviere M, Latreille J, Falardeau P. AE-941 (Neovastat), an inhibitor of
angiogenesis: phase I/II cancer clinical trial results. Cancer Invest
San-Juan S, Garces M, Caballero ML, et al. Occupational asthma caused by
shark cartilage dust. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2004;Nov, 114(5):1227-1228.
Sheu JR, Fu CC, Tsai ML, et al. Effect of U-995, a potent shark cartilage-derived
angiogenesis inhibitor, on anti-angiogenesis and anti-tumor activities.
Anticancer Res 1998;18(6A):4435-4441.
Wilson JL. Topical shark cartilage subdues psoriasis. Altern Comp Ther
Last updated June 21, 2005