Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews Personal views

Shark cartilage in the water

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 23 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1129

It’s either a proven therapy or an unproven therapy.

As an oncologist who has come across so many vulnerable cancer
patients misled by the so called complementary therapists, I applaud
Jonathan Waxman’s article (1).

It is also very depressing to see so many rational well-educated
people supporting this bandwagon of alternative/complementary therapy.

So many quote the deficiencies of the conventional treatment but fail
to note that physicians practising conventional medicine recognise these
deficiencies. Pros and cons of treatment and side effects of conventional
medicine are discussed with the patients. No patient is promised 100%

Conventional medicine constantly tries to improve the currently
available best treatments. And conventional medicine acknowledges that in
a decade or so many of the current treatments would have been discarded in
favour of better new therapies. And conventional medicine never claims
that we have been doing the ‘same natural treatment for thousand of years
or time immemorial’.

Can someone explain how the widely and openly acknowledged
deficiencies of the conventional medicine make the
alternative/complementary therapies worthwhile? Just because my neighbour
is a bad person does not make me a saint!

There is nothing complementary about these various so called
alternative/complementary therapies. Sometimes these therapies are a
complete fraud preying on the vulnerability of cancer patients (2).

A treatment is either proven to work or it is unproven. Perhaps BMJ
should take a lead in describing these various alternative/complementary
treatments as unproven therapy.

I am quite happy to use whatever that’s proven to work, no matter
however it’s labelled.


1. Waxman J. Shark cartilage in the water. BMJ 2006; 333: 1129

2. Sovak M, Seligson AL, Konas M, et al. Herbal composition PC-SPES
for management of prostate cancer: identification of active principles. J
Natl Cancer Inst. 2002;94(17):1275-81.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 December 2006
S Sundar
Consultant Oncologist
Nottingham University Hospitals. City Campus