In English | En español
Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER

Cartilage (Bovine and Shark) (PDQ®)

  • Last Modified: 01/23/2014

Page Options

  • Print This Page
  • Print This Document
  • View Entire Document
  • Email This Document

Overview

This complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information summary provides an overview of the use of cartilage as a treatment for people with cancer. The summary includes a brief history of cartilage research, the results of clinical studies, and possible side effects of cartilage use.

This summary contains the following key information:

  • Bovine (cow) cartilage and shark cartilage have been studied as treatments for people with cancer and other medical conditions for more than 30 years.
  • Numerous cartilage products are sold commercially in the United States as dietary supplements.
  • Three principal mechanisms of action have been proposed to explain the antitumor potential of cartilage: (1) it kills cancer cells directly; (2) it stimulates the immune system; and (3) it blocks the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), which tumors need for unrestricted growth.
  • At least three different inhibitors of angiogenesis have been identified in bovine cartilage, and two angiogenesis inhibitors have been purified from shark cartilage.
  • Few human studies of cartilage as a treatment for people with cancer have been reported to date, and the results are inconclusive.
  • Additional clinical trials of cartilage as a treatment for people with cancer are now being conducted.

Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are hypertext linked (at first use in each section) to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms, which is oriented toward nonexperts. When a linked term is clicked, a definition will appear in a separate window.

Reference citations in some PDQ CAM information summaries may include links to external Web sites that are operated by individuals or organizations for the purpose of marketing or advocating the use of specific treatments or products. These reference citations are included for informational purposes only. Their inclusion should not be viewed as an endorsement of the content of the Web sites, or of any treatment or product, by the PDQ Cancer CAM Editorial Board or the National Cancer Institute.