In the first scientific study of its kind, shark cartilage extract, AE-941 or Neovastat, showed no benefit as a therapeutic agent when combined with chemotherapy and radiation for patients with advanced non-small lung cancer.
The absence of blood vessels in cartilage, as well as preclinical studies analyzing cartilage extracts, have supported the hypothesis that cartilage contains inhibitors of blood vessel formation. Also, shark cartilage has long intrigued the public because the incidence of cancer in this cartilaginous fish is very rare.
“This is the first large Phase III randomized trial of shark cartilage as a cancer agent. A unique and important aspect about this shark cartilage study was that this product, Neovastat, was never sold over the counter, unlike other shark cartilage compounds previously studied,” says Charles Lu, M.D., associate professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology.
“Unfortunately, the study produced no data showing improvements in survival, tumor shrinkage and/or clinical benefits to patients,” Lu says. “Now when patients ask their oncologists about shark cartilage, physicians can point to this large NCI-sponsored Phase III trial and tell patients that, at this point, the only studies that have been done with cartilage-derived products have been negatives.”