Sharks may be the secret key to curing cancer

SARASOTA, Fla. (NBC/WFLA) — Could sharks hold the secret to curing cancer? Some researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory think so. One of the country’s leading scientists on the subjects say sharks’ immune systems can block human cancer cells and are now taking a look at promising research.

Sometimes, sharks get a bad rap. Most humans want to stay far away from them — for good reason. But researchers say sharks could potentially save millions of lives. The fish may have the secret to curing cancer. Dr. Carl Luer is one of America’s foremost leaders in this subject. He said it’s long been known that sharks rarely get sick.

“Sharks have a low incidence of disease, in general, and what’s interesting is they have a low incidence of cancer,” said Luer.

He says the fish have incredibly powerful immune systems.

“We’ve tried to give them cancer, and we’ve not been able to do that,” said Luer.

He removed cells from the immune system of a bonnethead shark and took it to a lab. He learned it secreted a compound that blocked the growth of human cancer cells.

“We want to be able to get to the point where we can understand what these compounds are so we can move into animal studies,” said Luer.

Luer wants to replicate these compounds in a lab, so future researchers won’t have to rely on wild bonnethead sharks. He says trials on humans could be years away but added that this research holds a lot of promise.

“There’s potential for improved therapies for certain types of cancer that respond well to our compounds, and there’s also the potential to develop new antibiotics,” said Luer.

One of humanity’s most feared creatures has the potential to help us. Luer has been lauded internationally for his work and was named a Distinguished Fellow at the American Elasmobranch Society, a high honor in his field. In the past 30 years, only 11 people have been given this distinction. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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