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Shark Info 3 / 00   (09-15-2000)

Author

  Intro:

AES Conference in La Paz, Mexico

Shark Info

  Main article:

Whale Sharks: Central Theme of the AES Conference in La Paz, Mexico

Shark Info

  Article 1:

Managing Sharks and Their Relatives

Shark Info

  Article 2:

The cruel business with shark cartilage and cancer

Dr. A. J. Godknecht

  Article 3:

Is yet another South African marine ecosystem in danger?

Dr. E. K. Ritter

  Fact Sheet:

Whale Sharks

Dr. E. K. Ritter


The cruel business with shark cartilage and cancer

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.

However, 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.

How everything began

Knorpelskelett

Shark-cartilage skeleton.

© 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 shark products.

Facts

  • 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 tumors.

  • 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.

A pioneer process in the U.S.

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 additives".
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 Institute.

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.

Europe is challenged

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 cartilage pills.

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" (http://www.same.ch).

* 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



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