From The Cancer Chronicles #16
© August 1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.

Editor's note: This was an early article on the topic of bovine cartilage, which is now sold commercially as VitaCarte. There have not been confirmatory studies of its effectiveness in the medical literature, although anecdotal material continues to accumulate. Dr. Prudden passed away in September, 1998.

John Fletcher Prudden, MD, is a man with not just backbone but cartilage—lots of it. He uses a form of bovine (beef) cartilage called Catrix® to treat cancer patients. But does he have what it takes to `swim with the sharks'? We interviewed him on his unusual career, and his current treatment of cancer.

Q. Tell us about yourself.

A. I graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1942 and received my medical degree from there in 1945. In 1950, I got my doctorate in medical science from Columbia and during the Korean War, I helped set up the Army Burn Unit at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. For most of my career I was a surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian. I was also associate professor of clinical surgery at Columbia's Physicians and Surgeons from 1967 to 1975. I am now in private practice in New York and have published over 60 medical articles.

Q. How did you first get interested in cartilage?

A. In the early 50s, I was studying wound healing. There was a young Canadian doctor in the lab who kept hounding us to place chips of cartilage in wounds. We were astounded when the wounds healed more promptly. When I tried to find him through Canadian and American medical societies, he had disappeared.

Q. How did your colleagues react to this discovery?

A. They shrugged it off. I said `If you fellows are not going to do anything, I certainly am.' I couldn't walk away from such astonishing findings. I started to experiment with cartilage, figuring out how to produce it in a powdered form. Eventually I helped found a company, Lescarden, Inc., which manufactures a bovine cartilage product, Catrix [now Vitacarte, ed.], from beef tracheal rings.

Q. Did this fascination with cartilage mark you as strange?

A. Not immediately. In the 50s, I made a good reputation by my work on lysozyme, an enzyme elevated in people with peptic ulcers. In 1957, I published my first papers on the acceleration of wound healing with cartilage. Soon after, I started treating cancer patients and got an IND (permit) from the Food and Drug Administration. Everything was perfectly above board.

Q. But Columbia University didn't see it that way?

A. The chairman of the surgery department objected to my use of cartilage. He said it was unconventional. I said it was the FDA that sets policy on new drugs and that I had complied with every regulation. But eventually I resigned, after nearly 22 years there. After that, I consulted for the NIH and was attending surgeon at St. Luke's-Roosevelt and Nyack Hospitals.

Q. How did you get involved with cancer?

A. I decided to treat cancer after I saw that cartilage was useful in the treatment of another proliferative disease, psoriasis. I treated my first cancer patient with cartilage in 1972. In 1985, I published my results on "The Treatment of Human Cancer with Agents Prepared from Bovine Cartilage" in the Journal of Biological Response Modifiers (4:551-584, 1985). At the time of that paper, 31 cancer patients had been treated. The response rate was 90 percent. Sixty-one percent were complete responders, i.e., had complete disappearance of tumors. Both oral and injected forms were used, but the oral was somewhat better.

Q. What has been the reaction of other doctors?

A. Sometimes they pressured patients to return to chemotherapy, even when that had already failed to help the patient.

Q. Why isn't Catrix sold in health food stores, like shark cartilage products?

A. I've always played by the rules of the FDA. We got an IND and clinical trials are underway in the US and Canada. I legally use Catrix in my own practice. While there are many reasons to be impatient with the FDA, I think we should change the regulatory process by the light of sweet reason, not by ignoring the agency which we have selected to supervise drug development.[Editor's note: as we mentioned, it now is sold in health food stores, as VitaCarte.]

Q. What clinical studies are currently underway?

A. At Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY and at the Royal Victoria in Montreal we have established studies on renal cell cancer. These are extremely lethal tumors. [Preliminary] results so far show a complete and/or partial response rate of about 25%.

Q. Is Catrix also effective against infections?

A. Yes, it's highly effective against herpes infections. However, when it is introduced into herpes cultures, it has no effect. Its effect is solely on the patient's immune system.

Q. Why hasn't Catrix been pushed to the forefront?

A. The prevailing wisdom is that one must practice medicine with singular molecular entities, i.e., refined drugs, not with crude biological mixtures, which are regarded as things out of our `unscientific past.' But cartilage is a more complex nut to crack than most other biologically-derived drugs.

Q. Have you tried to isolate the active elements?

A. Yes, but bear in mind that cartilage evolved through millennia under the direction of Mother Nature. Cartilage is a residue of a primitive layer, the mesenchyme, from which it has inherited all sorts of biological powers. The effect of this compound on any tissue is a potent normalization. We don't know if any of the components will be better than the natural substance.

Q. What about prevention?

A. Catrix could be very valuable. It is lacking in even minor side effects, and so there is no reason not to use it preventatively. It is relatively inexpensive—the current cost is about $170 per month. This cost should decrease markedly as production rises.

Q. Are you optimistic about Catrix's future?

A. Yes. I believe that this therapy will be approved for marketing in Canada and then in the US for renal cell cancer in about 18 months. This will be followed by rapid growth into other areas as successful protocol studies expand.

Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.

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