Do Sharks Really Not Get Cancer?


"Take shark cartilage," the doctor on the daytime talk show says. "Sharks don’t get cancer, and the pills will keep you from getting it, too." The thinking behind these pills is that shark cartilage has demonstrated anti-angiogenic properties—that is, it slows or stops the development of blood vessels. Since tumors need networks of blood vessels to survive and grow, cutting off vessel growth should starve, shrink and destroy a tumor. It seems to work for the sharks, argued best-sellers like Sharks Don’t Get Cancer: How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life and Sharks Still Don’t Get Cancer.

There’s two big problems here, though. The first is that, while some anti-angiogenesis therapies and medications are effective and have been approved by the FDA for treating cancers, cartilage pills aren’t one of them. The pills don’t make good on the claims made about them. Cartilage pill makers and pushers base their promotions around a very small body of research that shows, says the American Cancer Society, only a “modest ability to slow the growth of new blood vessels in laboratory cell cultures and in animals” and, in a series of trials that have been critiqued for poor controls and methodology, mixed results in humans. Another study suggested that a group of patients with advanced cancer went into remission thanks to cartilage treatment, but the results weren’t published in a peer-reviewed journal and the National Cancer Institute later called the study "incomplete and unimpressive.” 

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed and published evidence goes against shark cartilage’s supposed anti-cancer abilities. In numerous trials with both human patients and mouse models, researchers have concluded that shark cartilage provides no benefit against cancers. Both the FDA and FTC have pulled shark cartilage products from the market and/or fined their manufacturers for making unproven claims about anti-cancer properties.

The second problem is that the very foundation of the cartilage pill cure—the idea that sharks don’t get cancer—isn’t at all true.

Sharks get cancer. We knew that even before people started claiming that they didn’t and using that to market cartilage pills. The first tumor recorded on a cartilaginous fish was found on a skate in 1853, and the first found on a shark followed in 1908. Since then, researchers have found some 40 instances of cancerous tumors in at least 24 shark species. These tumors were found in various parts of the body—including in the cartilage and on the face of this poor great white shark.

Image courtesy of Andrew Fox and Sam Cahir 

So, yes, Virginia, there are cancer-stricken sharks, and using bits and pieces of them in pills won’t do anything for you. 

Martin Wittfooth
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]


More from mental floss studios