|Shark Cartilage and Cancer: The Exciting Possibility of a Cancer-free State with a Natural Product |
|Interview with © Dr. I. William Lane|
as Interviewed By© Richard A. Passwater PhD
I. William Lane, Ph.D. received both his B.A. and M.A. in the field
of Nutritional Science from Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. in
Agricultural Biochemistry and Nutrition from Rutgers University. As a researcher,
he studied and worked under two Nobel prize winners, Dr. James B. Sumner
(1946) and Dr. Selman A. Waksmann (1952).
Dr. Lane applied his research in poultry nutrition in association with Perdue
Farms and Tyson ...... Although his research in poultry-feed formulation
brought him to my "neck of the woods, we did not meet at that time.
Later he became a vice president for Grace and Company heading its Marine
Resources Division. This experience in biochemistry and marine science provided
Dr. Lane with a special background to pursue his research with shark cartilage.
Introduction: I am excited about your recent clinical studies showing that Shark cartilage is eliminating tumors in Stage III and IV terminal cancer patients. If additional and larger human clinical trials are confirmed by others, it truly will be the most important health news that I have ever heard.
We have chatted before about the theoretical mechanisms and the various
University studies showing effectiveness in the laboratory, but at that
time, you had no human clinical studies completed. When I saw that your
book, "Sharks don't get cancer," was being introduced at the Nashville
NNFA convention, I was hoping to get a chance to get updated.  But, alas,
our schedules were too hectic.
I have been studying the cancer process for twenty years. Cancer is a multi-step
process in which cells accumulate multiple genetic alterations as they progress
to a more malignant mutation. Although there are many steps, they can be
grouped into three distinct phases. My research has concentrated on preventing
the first step, while your research has concentrated on preventing the third
step, and more importantly, eliminating cancer tumors in advanced
The first step in the process is the damage caused by agents known as carcinogens.
carcinogens can damage critical parts of genes called proto-oncogenes directly
or by generating free radicals. Carcinogens may be chemicals, radiation
or a viruses. Antioxidant nutrients protect against damage that can be caused
The initiating the development process does not necessarily lead to cancer.
This process alone will only produce a series of independent precancerous
cells. In order for cancer to develop, the process must be propagated to
the point where these precancerous cells will reproduce, associate and develop
their own blood supply and defense system. If there is no propagation or
if the immune system is activated and destroys these precancerous cells,
then there will be no cancer developed.
The second step in cancer development, called "promotion," allows
the precancerous cell to reproduce rapidly and change their membrane surface
properties to those characteristic of malignant cells. Anything that promotes
cell reproduction decreases the chance that repair enzymes will repair (deactivate)
the activated oncogene.
Even with promotion, the proliferating cells will not necessarily develop
into cancer. The cell mass must grow large enough to affect body metabolism
and start their own blood supply and defense system. This is the third step
called "progression." Progression leads to cancer, including the
malignant tumors of carcinoma (consisting largely of epithelial cells) and
adenocarcinoma (cancer of a gland), and eventually metastasis (the invasive
spreading to other areas).
Conventional therapies try to cure cancer by killing more cancer cells than
healthy cells. You have found in your search why sharks don't get cancer,
that the process that stops the third step in cancer development also can
be used to eliminate existing cancers. You were the right man with the right
background at the right place at the right time. Let's start near the beginning.
Passwater: Your book is entitled, "Sharks don't get cancer."
I've never worked with a laboratory room full of sharks -- at least not
the finned kind. Is your title an exaggeration to make a point and is it
relevant whether or not sharks get cancer?
Lane: "Never" is a slight exaggeration to make an
important point. Actually, as stated in the book, some cancer has been reported
in sharks, but fewer than one in a million sharks show cancer -- less than
one percent of the incidence of tumors reported for all other species of
fish. What is relevant is that sharks rarely get cancer and that this fact
has been tied specifically to their cartilage skeleton and the strong anti-tumor
activity of shark cartilage.
Passwater: I have also been following the research of Dr.
Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the preliminary
research of Dr. John Prudden, a Harvard-trained physician, showing a factor
in cartilage that inhibited tumors. [2-4] What is different about cartilage
that would explain why this factor is present in cartilage?
Lane: In 1976, Dr. Robert Langer showed that shark cartilage
contained an inhibitor of new blood vessels in tumors. When the body makes
new blood vessels, the process is called "neovascularization"
or "angiogenesis." Angiogenesis is the term most often used, and
it is derived from "angio" meaning "pertaining to blood vessels"
and "genesis" meaning "formation of," thus angiogenesis
merely means the origin and development of blood vessels.
Earlier, Dr. Judah Folkman of Harvard had put forth the theory that one
could prevent a tumor from exceeding one-to-two square millimeters (the
size of a pencil point) if a blood network could be prevented from forming.
 A blood network is needed to feed the tumor and remove waste products.
This concept opened up a whole new strategy for controlling cancer and is
the approach with which I have been working.
In 1983, Drs. Anna Lee and Robert Langer pinpointed the mechanism to this
approach which I had been following. They reported that an extract of shark
cartilage inhibited both new blood vessel growth and tumor development.
 They also showed the inhibitor to be 1,000 times more concentrated in
the shark cartilage than in the cartilage of other animals. Bovine cartilage,
when processed to remove the fat as Dr. John Prudden did, is very low in
blood vessel inhibiting activity. Rather, bovine cartilage relies primarily
on its ability to stimulate the immune system with mucopolysaccharides (glycosaminoglycans,
a class of complex carbohydrates) which is a positive, but weak, development,
nowhere near the magnitude of importance or effectiveness of antiangiogenesis
(preventing blood vessel development).
It was postulated that the logical place to look for such natural inhibitors
of angiogenesis would be in tissue not having blood vessels (avascular).
The most common avascular tissue is cartilage. The theory being that cartilage
is avascular because it contains inhibitors of new vascularization, and
that shark cartilage, pound for pound, is by far the most actively antiangiogenic.
Passwater: When we last spoke, you mentioned that several
antiangiogenic factors have been discovered in cartilage, and that this
is a distinct advantage of your whole cartilage food over a purified drug
which is a single compound. What type of compounds are these antiangiogenic
factors, and how sensitive are they to environmental factors such as processing?.
Lane: It is believed that all of the antiangiogenic factors
in shark cartilage are proteins. In late 1992, two separate proteins, both
with major antiogenic properties have been identified, one, by Dr. Robert
Langer, and a second, by Japanese researchers. [7,8] It is postulated that
as many as five separate active antiangiogenic proteins are in shark cartilage.
With the whole shark cartilage properly prepared, all would work synergistically.
Proteins are easily denatured (inactivated) by heat, acids, alcohols, acetones,
and many other chemicals. Thus, proper processing to prevent denaturization
is most important.
The mucopolysaccharides and their ability to stimulate the immune system,
as found in shark and other cartilage, are important, but I believe that
most, if not all, of the activity I am showing comes from the antiangiogenic
Passwater: Can you verify and quantify your claim that shark
cartilage has more antiangiogenic activity than bovine or other cartilage?
Lane: Yes, the scientific literature documents this fact.
Dr. Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has studied
various cartilages and reports in the highly respected peer-reviewed scientific
journal Science that shark cartilage is 1,000 times more potent in
antiangiogenic factor, all of which is in the protein fraction, than bovine
or other mammalian cartilage. Based on this, I find it hard to understand
how most "copy-cat" products stress their mucopolysaccharide content,
and are very low on active protein and antiangiogenic activity.
These "copy-cat" products -- which based on assay and their own
correspondence -- usually are not whole shark cartilage, and are often diluted
with dextrins (hydrolysis products of starch) or sugars. When life or death
is at stake, those offering them unproven and questionable "copy-cat"
products should be run out of the industry, in my opinion. I have identified
them most of them, including some well-known names. One has to wonder if
they would offer a "copy-cat" and ineffective product in something
this important -- how good can some of their other products be?
Passwater: How can we be sure that significant amounts of
antiangiogenic factor are in shark cartilage products?
Lane: An standard assay method developed by Dr. Judah Folkman
of the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Robert Langer of Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, and others, called the CAM (short for chick Chorioallantoic
Membrane) assay allows one to measure the angiogenesis inhibiting capability
of a product. This assay involves adding the material to be tested to a
fertilized chicken egg yolk sac and measuring the amount of new blood vessel
development under standardized conditions.
Using the CAM assay, one can, and should control production lots. I know
of only one commercial product in which this is done with all batches, and
that is Cartilade(tm). I used the CAM assay early on in my research to improve
production methods. I was able to materially increase inhibition activity
using the CAM assay as a guide, and I continue to seek better processing
Passwater: Has commercial processed shark cartilage been effective
against human cancers?
Lane: By all means -- all tests and clinical trials, except
for the first one, have been on a commercially available product called
Cartilade(tm). The first test was a more concentrated experimental product
which is not yet produced commercially because of high cost.
All of these studies with only advanced cases -- usually stage III and stage
IV terminal patients -- with shark cartilage as the only therapy have shown
results which are most significant. In eight breast tumor cases where the
tumors were all larger than golf balls in size, all eight women were tumor-free
or approaching a tumor-free state in eleven weeks. In three other studies
on breast cancer, the results have been the same. With seventy-six cancer
cases in the United States, a New Jersey physician has shown all seventy-six
patients responding to the shark cartilage therapy. The shark cartilage
therapy works on all solid tumors, but appears to be most effective with
breast, liver, brain and esophageal tumors, where major changes within four-to-six
weeks are noticeable. Lung and prostate cancers seem to respond more slowly,
and we have seen good responses with pancreatic tumors at very high dosage
Passwater: How have these studies demonstrated that it was
the shark cartilage and not some residual effect of other treatments that
Lane: Residual effect is always a possibility, however, in
a clinical trial in Cuba on 27 advanced cancer victims, no patient was selected
that had not been off other therapies for at least weeks, and in the three
Mexican studies, all patients had been off all other therapies for extended
periods. In practice, many patients not in clinical trials do take the shark
cartilage along with other therapies like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
No one wants to suggest countermanding a physician's suggestions, but patients
want the shark cartilage because they doubt the positive effects of much
conventional therapy and have had good reports on the effect of shark cartilage.
Passwater: How do we know that the tumors are actually being
Lane: In all clinical trials and with all patients of Dr.
Martinez in New Jersey, a starting-point, mid-point and end-point scans
by either MRI (magnetic resonance image) or CAT (computer-assisted tomography)
are done to follow the progress of tumor tissue death (necrosis). These
scans often show the development of air spaces in the tumors as the malignant
tissue dies away due to lack of a blood supply as the therapy progresses.
Many radiologists who are not used to seeing tumor necrosis in advanced
cancer often are puzzled about the appearance of air spaces, and they often
suspect abscesses. I refer to the appearance of air spaces -- especially
in large breast tumors as "the Swiss cheese effect."
Passwater: What clinical trials are now underway?
Lane: The clinical trial led by Dr. Martinez is ongoing, as
is a twenty-seven patient study in Cuba. I expect another clinical trial
to get underway in Cuba that will include breast, uterine/cervical, brain,
and esophageal cancer patients, with thirty patients included in each cancer
category. In Germany, four patients are being treated with shark cartilage
by Dr. Helmut Keller, and in Austria, four patients each with Drs. Steinheller
and Werkmann are just starting treatment.
In all of these studies, MRI scans, blood chemistries and photographs will
be taken so that publications can be forthcoming. My problem has been the
lack of funding for extensive clinical trials, especially in the United
Passwater: Have all of the completed human studies been done
with, and will the new studies be done with the same material?
Lane: Yes! With the exception of the first study with Dr.
Contreras, all studies have used a whole shark cartilage product called
Passwater: Shark cartilage has been available since 1989;
who produced the first shark cartilage in capsules and why?
Lane: I was responsible for the first shark cartilage capsules.
In fact, early on, I encapsulated much of it in my kitchen for early arthritis
research. In early studies on dogs and humans, I was working primarily with
the mucopolysaccharide immune stimulation effect. My major cancer work only
started in 1991, and was at high dosage use involving powder rather than
capsules, although the active material is the same.
Passwater: Just how much shark cartilage is required to treat
Lane: My first study in Mexico was based on the equivalent
of 60 grams of whole shark cartilage per day based on body weight of under
140 pound patients. At this time in trials, we have gone as high as 120
grams daily with advanced cancer cases. An average of 60 to 80 grams daily
is generally used, and the success rate with solid tumors has been higher
than 80 percent. The shark cartilage is administered orally in juice
or buttermilk at the rate of 15 to 20 grams each time, spread throughout
the day and taken between meals. In some advanced cases, and in the Cuban
study, all is administered rectally at the rate of 15 to 20 grams in four
ounces of body-temperature water. These enemas are given four times daily
as retention enemas.
After one becomes tumor-free (metastases and all), a preventative dose of
ten to fifteen grams daily probably should be used for an extended time,
but to date, I have no specific data on this.
Passwater: What other angiogenic diseases might be helped
at that treatment level?
Lane: We have seen in clinical trials that not only are the
original and metastasized tumors affected, but since the mechanism is systemic,
other diseases such as psoriasis, fibroid tumors, diabetic retinopathy,
Kaposi's sarcoma, and arthritic pain all seem to disappear -- often before
the cancerous tumors are all gone.
Since there are so many hysterectomies performed each year -- and many are
needless -- I will be looking into doing a fibroid tumor study.
Passwater: What do we know about the safety of Shark cartilage?
Lane: Shark cartilage -- like all active materials -- must
be used properly. Since it inhibits new vascularization, those having suffered
a recent coronary occlusion (heart attack), pregnant women and those wanting
to conceive, and people recovering from recent surgery should all refrain
from use for a logical time period.
We have experienced some stomach upsets -- primarily with those on a macrobiotic
or vegetarian diet who also respond more slowly. We see some very limited
allergic responses, but in general, most people can use shark cartilage
with no problems at all.
The cost of the high-dosage therapy will generally be between $2,000 to
$3,000 to reach a tumor-free state based on clinical experience covering
a period under sixteen weeks. This is only a small fraction of the cost
of conventional therapy, and based on the clinical studies conducted so
far, the success rate is far superior.
Passwater: I remember what happened to the Pacific yews in
Oregon when it was found that taxol (tamoxifen), the experimental drug being
studied to treat breast cancer, could be extracted from their bark. Will
Sharks be endangered by our need to cure human cancer?
Lane: About 10 million sharks are caught each year based on
statistics of shark fin usage for the shark-fin soup market. If the heads
and backbones, representing most of the cartilage were kept and used, there
would be enough shark cartilage to treat 625,000 cancer patients a year
without catching a single additional shark than are caught now. It would
just be greater utilization of material now thrown away unused. Hopefully,
synthesis of the active components will follow shortly as well.
Passwater: My research was presented to the National Cancer
Institute in 1978, but it has only been recently that they became interested
in it. Didn't you present your research to them also?
Lane: Yes! I did present my research to the National Cancer
Institute in 1991. I gave a seminar for Dr. Robert Gallo and thirty of his
top research scientists, and they gave me a standing ovation and an immediate
offer to collaborate. However, within three months, the offer to work with
me was withdrawn and no acceptable excuse was given. I assume it was because
there was a resistance to work with a natural product. They have followed
my research, however, and it has even been written up in the July 1992 Journal
of the National Cancer Institute. However, no offer to renew collaboration
was ever made to my knowledge, even though I am told that patients phoning
the NAtional Cancer Institute and asking about shark cartilage are given
encouraging comments in general.
Passwater: Did your research lead to any patents?
Lane: On Christmas Eve (December 24, 1991), I was granted
Untied States Patent # 5,075,112 covering the use of shark cartilage to
inhibit angiogenesis. This patent was fully supported by CAM assay and showing
the inhibition of angiogenesis by shark cartilage. A second patent covering
the processing techniques used in manufacture has been applied for.
Passwater: Dr. Lane, I don't know what to say. This is the
most exciting development that I have ever experienced. I will be looking
for the results from your next round of studies.
All rights, including electronic and print media, to this article are copyrighted
by © Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D. and Whole Foods magazine (WFC Inc.).
1. Sharks don't get cancer Lane, I. William and Comac, Linda Avery, Garden
City Park, NY (1992)
2. Isolation of a cartilage factor that inhibits tumorneovascularizationLanger,
Robert; Brem, H.; Falterman, K.; Klein, M. andFolkman, J.Science 193:70-2
3. Shark cartilage contains inhibitors of tumor angiogenesis.Lee, Anne and
Langer, RobertScience 221:1185-7 (1983)
4. The treatment of human cancer with agents prepared from bovinecartilage.Prudden,
John F.J. Biolog. Response Modifiers 4:551-84 (1985)
5. Tumor angiogenesis: Therapeutic implications.Folkman, JudahNew Engl.
J. Med. 285:1182-6 (1971)
6. Shark cartilage contains inhibitors of tumor angiogenesis.Lee, Anne and
Langer, RobertScience 221:1185-7 (1983)
7. Identification of an inhibitor of neovascularization fromcartilage.Moses,
Marsha A.; Sudhalter, Judith and Langer, RobertScience 248:1408-10 (1990)
8. A novel angiogenic inhibitor derived from Japanese sharkcartilage.Oihawa,
H.; Ashino-Fuse, H.; Shimamura, M.; Koide, U. andIwaguchi, T.Cancer Letters