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Researchers: Sharks could hold key to fighting cancer

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SARASOTA, Fla. – A group of researchers in Florida say one of the world’s most feared creatures could save millions of lives in the future.

Researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory say sharks may contain the secret to curing cancer.

Dr. Carl Luer has been studying the creatures for years and says it is very rare for a shark to become ill.

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

He says sharks have incredibly powerful immune systems.

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

He removed cells from the immune system of a bonnethead shark and took them to the lab.

He learned those cells 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,” he said.

Luer wants to replicate the 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 Luer says this research holds a lot of promise.

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

Dr. Luer has been lauded internationally for his work.

He 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.