Cattle: Latest Weapon In The War On Cancer?

December 18, 1997

CSIRO livestock researchers are exploring extracts of cattle cartilage as a possible potent new weapon in the war on cancer, the Chief of CSIRO Tropical Agriculture, Dr Elizabeth Heij, has announced.

A team led by Dr Greg Harper of CSIRO's J.M.Rendel Laboratory in Rockhampton is working to identify special factors in cattle cartilage shown by international research to prevent a cancer from developing a blood supply and spreading round the body.

In the process they hope to add a valuable new product to Australia's $4 billion cattle and meat industry.

"Overseas scientists have demonstrated that certain extracts of shark cartilage, injected into tumours, cause them to regress. They also appear to inhibit the development of blood vessels to the cancer, which allows them to spread round the body," Dr Harper explains.

"The shark cartilage extract market is already worth $1 billion a year in the US alone æ but, worldwide, sharks are in short supply. Our marine scientists believe that shark fishing cannot support the predicted growth in demand for this product."

However Dr Harper's work has established that similar factors occur in bovine cartilage æ and Australia produces thousands of tonnes of this from the 7 million cattle the beef industry processes each year.

"To reach the body's blood supply and spread, a cancer first has to pass through a matrix of extra-cellular material," he says.

"Cartilage is a tissue that functions without nerves, blood vessels or a lymphatic system and consists largely of extra-cellular material æ and it is these characteristics which make it useful in trying to stop a cancer from spreading.

"Also it contains factors which interfere with the cancer's passage. We believe that by increasing these factors, the cancer is forced to expend more energy in trying to get through the extra-cellular matrix, making it far more difficult for it to spread, or metastatise."

The factors go by the family name of glycosaminoglycans æ or GAGs for short. Dr Harper and researcher Xiaoyi Qui from Beijing's Tiantan Hospital in China, are hard at work trying to identify and characterise the particular GAGs in bovine cartilage that do the best job of inhibiting cancer spread.

"The reason we believe cattle are such an important source is that, so far, nobody has succeeded in synthesising these compounds. That means the supply will continue to rely on natural sources.

"Shark fishing is probably an unsustainable way of obtaining them, but we believe that domestic cattle offer a very promising alternative," he says.

The goal of the research is to make GAGs a valuable coproduct of the beef industry. Overseas, shark cartilage extract sells for $250-500 a kilo, but here bovine cartilage mainly goes into blood-and-bone fertiliser.

"About one per cent of every cattle carcase consists of cartilage, and nearly a third of that consists of GAGs æ so the value-adding potential for the meat industry is considerable," Dr Harper says.

"The real challenge is to identify which of the GAGs are most active against cancers."

Down the track, he envisages bovine GAGs not just as a medical treatment, but potentially an additive for therapeutic foods æ just as some special foods are now enriched with substances which protect the consumer against heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
-end-


CSIRO Australia

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.