By Dr. A. J. Godknecht
Shark cartilage pulverized or in pill form is
marketed as a "noble fitness maker" for stressed contemporaries. Sold mainly as a food
additive, shark cartilage has also, however, frequently been ascribed to preventing
cancer. The products thus fill cash registers at the cost of sharks and are aimed not
only at health fanatics, but also at millions of desperate cancer patients.
most companies are clever enough not to push their products as cancer remedies, for
that would be illegal. The fact is that up until today shark cartilage has not been
recognized as an official remedy by any licensing authority. The effect of cartilage
preparations against cancer and other inflammatory illnesses is thus appropriately
"only" covered up as a pleasant side effect, but potential customers are quickly made
aware of this through the citing of extremely questionable medical journals.
© Shark Foundation
"Sharks don't get cancer", or in the German version, "Why are sharks
immune against cancer", was the title of a book written by Dr. William I. Lane, which
in the first half of the 90s initiated the "run" on shark cartilage. It was based on
scientific research carried out in 1983 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) which determined that cartilage from calves and sharks influenced the blood
supply and thus indirectly the growth of tumors. The book cited questionable
studies on shark cartilage as a cure-all against cancer. This was a clever move,
considering that the intelligent and efficient agro-biochemist, William Lane, is also
President of the American Fish Meal Trade Association by trade and had previously
researched investment possibilities in the Guinean fishing industry for the former
Reagan Administration. An effective cancer cure promised to turn into a billion dollar
business, for Lane as well, as the owner of one of the largest companies dealing with
- Sharks do get cancer. Up until today approximately 23 forms of
cancer have been registered in the scientific Tumor register of primitive organisms of
George Washington University and in scientific publications. One of these forms is
known as Chondromas, i.e. cartilage cancer!
- Some yet unknown active substances in
cartilage (including shark cartilage) have a growth-retarding effect on certain
- Up until today not one serious scientific study is available which proves
that shark cartilage treatment had any effect on human cancer. Shark cartilage
preparations are usually given orally or in the form of an enema. It is possible that
the cancer growth-retarding components, which when applied directly in the immediate
vicinity of the tumors do show some effect, are either digested by the stomach or
destroyed by stomach acid when given orally.
- A potential cancer growth-retarding
effect is not limited to shark cartilage, as for example was shown in tests at MIT
(1983) where even calf cartilage demonstrated a similar effect.
June 30, 2000, marks the first notable conviction of producers of shark
cartilage preparation. The American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered Lane
Labs-USA Inc. and Cartilage Consultants to immediately stop their marketing of shark
cartilage as a remedy against cancer. Andrew Lane, President of Lane Labs and his
father, the already known Dr. William I. Lane, owner of Cartilage Consultants, were
accused of making common cause under false pretences with the marketing of the shark
cartilage preparation "BeneFin" and the sun cream "SkinAnswer".
Lane Labs was also convicted of unfair competition and received a fine
amounting to an additional one million US dollars.
The case had already dragged on for months. On December 10,
1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), those American authorities who among
other things control all medical preparations in the U.S., went to court because of
"Benefin" and "SkinAnswer". The case was subsequently taken
over by the FTC. Since
then the companies have unsuccessfully tried to win congressional delegates for their
cause, always arguing that they had been wrongly accused and that the American
Government was simply trying to prevent citizens from buying "safe and remedial food
Both companies finally accepted both the conviction and the sentence.
BeneFin and SkinAnswer were no longer marketed as "clinically tested" cancer
remedies. The one million dollar fine was divided up: a fine amounting to USD 550,000
goes directly to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the remaining USD 450,000 will
benefit a research project on shark cartilage sponsored by the National Cancer
Normally the FTC does not intervene so radically in cases of unfair
competition. In this instance, according to Daren Bowie of the FTC, the Commission
ordered a severe
fine because the companies misused the fears of an especially sensitive population
segment for their own benefit.
In Europe similar decisions are
stilll pending. Perhaps it is more difficult here than in the U.S. to prove marketing
under false pretences. Formulations such as "a series of investigations in various
scientific centers in the U.S and Europe have shown that tropical shark cartilage can
be a strong opponent against cancer" are legal since they are not directly wrong, but
they do persuade customers to believe false facts in direct connection with shark
In Switzerland, shark cartilage preparations are sold, e.g. by GLOBAL
TRADING S.a.g.l. - Div. PHARMA in Bioggio (Ti) under the name "Same"
* Dr. Alexander Godknecht is a
biologist and president of the
Shark Foundation/Hai-Stiftung and member of the Shark Info editorial team. He works at
the Center for Computing Services at Zurich University.
May be published only by indicating the source: Shark Info / Dr. A. J. Godknecht