Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Shark cartilage cancer ’cure’ shows danger of pseudoscience


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:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>