Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shark cartilage cancer ’cure’ shows danger of pseudoscience

01.12.2004


Biologist says public’s scientific illiteracy has frightening repercussions



The rising popularity of shark cartilage extract as an anti-cancer treatment is a triumph of marketing and pseudoscience over reason, with a tragic fallout for both sharks and humans, according to a Johns Hopkins biologist writing in the Dec. 1 issue of Cancer Research. "Since shark cartilage has been promoted as a cancer cure, not only has there has been a measurable decline in shark populations, but cancer patients also have been diverted from proven, effective treatments," said Gary K. Ostrander, a research professor in the departments of Biology and Comparative Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University.

In the paper, titled "Shark Cartilage, Cancer and the Growing Threat of Pseudoscience," Ostrander writes, "Crude shark cartilage is marketed as a cancer cure on the premise that sharks don’t get cancer. That’s not true, and the fact that people believe it is an illustration of just how harmful the public’s irrationality can be."


In fact, Ostrander’s paper details more than 40 examples of tumors in sharks and related species, dating back to the mid-1800s.

In the paper, Ostrander and a team of researchers from the Registry of Tumors in Lower Animals not only dissect what they call the "fallacious arguments" that have successfully convinced desperate cancer patients to purchase and ingest crude shark cartilage extract, but they also sound a "wake-up call" for society to become more scientifically literate and, thus, less vulnerable to skillfully mass-marketed illogical claims. "People read on the Internet or hear on television that taking crude shark cartilage extract can cure them of cancer, and they believe it without demanding to see the science behind the claims," Ostrander said. "This shows how the electronic media has increased the potential harm of pseudoscience, turning what would otherwise be quaint cultural curiosities into potential serious societal and ecological problems. The only way to combat this is to ensure that government leaders and media professionals receive adequate scientific training based on reason, and that they also develop critical thinking skills."

Ostrander traces the popularity of crude shark cartilage as a cancer treatment and preventive measure to I. William Lane’s 1992 book titled "Sharks Don’t Get Cancer," which was further publicized by the CBS News program "60 Minutes" in 1993. Though Lane acknowledges in the book that sharks do, in fact, get cancer, he bases his advocacy of crude cartilage extracts on what Ostrander calls "overextensions" of some early experiments in which the substance seemed to inhibit tumor formation and the growth of new blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to malignancies.

"The fact is that it is possible that highly purified components of cartilage, including from sharks, may hold some benefit for treatment of human cancers," Ostrander said. "The key will be to isolate these compounds and design a way to deliver them to the site of the tumor. Lane and others ignore these existing barriers and suggest that consuming crude cartilage extracts by mouth or rectum could be curative of all cancers – an approach for which there is no scientific basis. It is worth noting that despite more than a decade of evaluation of shark cartilage, not a single controlled clinical study has established that it works as an anti-cancer agent."

Lisa DeNike | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>