If you didn’t get the first part of the discussion on this topic, you can read about it here: Cancer is not an apricot deficiency

This article by me provoked a lot of response. It’s amazing how many people want to defend this Laetrile (amygdalin) hokum.

One colleague even quoted research by Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, the scientist who performed the requested tests at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He claimed that laetrile inhibited secondary tumors in mice, though it did not destroy the primary tumors. He repeated the experiment several times with the same results (he says).

However, three other researchers were unable to confirm Sugiura’s results. While these uncontrolled and inconclusive results were considered too preliminary to publish, they were leaked to laetrile advocates, resulting in significant public uproar that here was an amazing new cancer “cure” being suppressed.

From that day forward, I don’t anybody in alternative medicine (except me!) followed along. It was a proven deal, that laetrile worked.

Well, it wasn’t. What’s more the basic requirements of science were not met. There has to be reproducibility. If others can’t copy what you did, chances are, you are WRONG.

But in this story it’s even odder because Sugiura disproved himself; he was unable to duplicate his own results.

MSKCC researchers conducted a further controlled experiment in which they injected some mice with laetrile (as Sugiura had done) and others with placebo. Sugiura, who was unaware of which mice had received laetrile, performed the pathologic analysis. In this controlled, blinded follow-up, Sugiura himself was unable to tell which mice had received laetrile and which had placebo.

Subsequently, laetrile was tested on 14 tumor systems without evidence of effectiveness. Given this collection of results, MSKCC concluded that “laetrile showed no beneficial effects.”

The Sloan-Kettering press release was, unfortunately, flawed and this has led to the widespread belief that there was some kind of cover up. Ralph Moss believes there was. I do not believe so.

Why?

Because no other decent science has ever been able to show amygdalin works. What is more it is highly toxic and does not deserve its false reputation of being safe. Amygdalin releases cyanide and there are many reported cases of cyanide toxicity among people who overdose on apricot kernels (something the Hunzas never did, by the way). This is exactly like the chemotherapy story: something toxic that kills cancer cells. Yes they do die! But only when amygdalin is taken in sufficient quantity to put the patient at risk too.

Amygdalin was first isolated in 1830. In 1845 it was used as a cancer treatment in Russia and it was tried as an anticancer agent in Germany in 1892, but was discarded as ineffective and too toxic for that purpose. It re-appeared in the 1920s in the United States, but it was considered too poisonous.

Then in the 1950s, a purportedly non-toxic, synthetic form was patented for use as a meat preservative, and later marketed as laetrile for cancer treatment.

Laetrile is laevo-mandelonitrile-beta-glucuronoside and is NOT the same as amygdalin. That’s another perpetuated myth. I marvel that people dedicated to holistic treatments, who wouldn’t take chemotherapy from a doctor, will take chemotherapy in the form of laetrile. It doesn’t make sense!

The humbug started with Dr. Ernst T. Krebs. He is clearly what we British call a “chancer” or perhaps charlatan. During the influenza pandemic of 1918, he apparently became convinced that an old Indian remedy made from parsley was effective against the flu. He set up the Balsamea Company in San Francisco to market the remedy as Syrup Leptinol, which he claimed was effective against asthma, whooping cough, tuberculosis and pneumonia as well.

During the early 1920s, supplies of Syrup Leptinol were seized by the FDA on charges that these claims were false and fraudulent. See, even if it did work (I’m sure it didn’t), Krebs didn’t seem too bothered with science, just turning a dollar.

During the 1940s, Krebs was at it again, promoting Mutagen, an enzyme mixture containing chymotrypsin, which he claimed was effective against cancer.

He and his son also patented and promoted “pangamic acid” (later called “vitamin B15”), which they claimed was effective against heart disease, cancer, and several other serious ailments. Krebs, Sr., died in 1970 at the age of 94.

Ernst Krebs, Jr. has often been referred to as “Dr. Krebs” although he has no accredited doctoral degree. He attended Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia from 1938 to 1941, but was expelled after repeating his freshman year and failing his sophomore year. After taking courses in five different colleges and achieving low or failing grades in his science courses, he finally received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Illinois in 1942. In 1973, after giving a 1-hour lecture on Laetrile, he obtained a “Doctor of Science” degree from American Christian College, a small, now-defunct Bible college in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

So the son was such a crappy scholar, he failed to qualify as an MD by any honorable route. Ernst Krebs, Jr. doesn’t meet my standards as a medical science leader: more like a phoney, wanting desperately to make dollars and having spotted a market “niche”. [Bruzelius, NJ. The merchants of Laetrile. Boston Sunday Globe, June 17, 1979]

The lack of science is highly revealing.

In 1977, Harold W. Manner, Ph.D., chairman of the biology department at Loyola University in Chicago, achieved considerable notoriety by claiming to have cured mammary cancers in mice with injections of Laetrile and proteolytic enzymes and massive oral doses of vitamin A. What he actually did was digest the tumors by injecting digestive enzymes in amounts equivalent to injecting a woman with a pint of salt water containing about 1 1/2 ounces of meat tenderizer every other day for six weeks. Not surprisingly, the mice developed abscesses where the enzymes were injected, the tumors were liquefied, and the injected tissue fell off. There can be no parallel with human treatments. No microscopic examinations were conducted and the animals were observed for only a few weeks following treatment, no legitimate assessment of this type of therapy could have been made.

In response to political pressure, the National Cancer Institute did two studies involving Laetrile. The first was a retrospective analysis of patients treated with Laetrile. Letters were written to 385,000 physicians in the United States as well as 70,000 other health professionals requesting case reports of cancer patients who were thought to have benefited from using Laetrile. In addition, the various pro-Laetrile groups were asked to provide information concerning any such patients.

Although it had been estimated that at least 70,000 Americans had used Laetrile—only 93 cases were submitted for evaluation. To me, the fact that there were only 93 cases out of tens of thousands speaks volumes. It doesn’t work! Otherwise they would have produced at least 2,000- 3,000 successes.

Twenty-six of the 93 reports lacked adequate documentation to permit any evaluation. The remaining 68 cases were “blinded” and submitted to an expert panel for review, along with data from 68 similar patients who had received chemotherapy. The panel felt that two of the Laetrile-treated cases demonstrated complete remission of disease, four displayed partial remission, and the remaining 62 cases had exhibited no measurable response.

I think that 2 cases out over 50,000 is proof positive that laetrile doesn’t work.

A 2006 systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded: “The claim that [l]aetrile has beneficial effects for cancer patients is not supported by data from controlled clinical trials. This systematic review has clearly identified the need for randomised or controlled clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of [l]aetrile or amygdalin for cancer treatment.”

The Cochrane database project is a not-for-profit international cooperation, designed to combine medical science databases from over 100 countries.

[Milazzo S, Ernst E, Lejeune S, Schmidt K (2006). Milazzo, Stefania. ed. “Laetrile treatment for cancer”. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2): CD005476. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005476.pub2. PMID 16625640.]

But What About Those Cases Who Recovered?

I get letters from cancer victims who claim they were cured and therefore laetrile works.

Sadly, this proves nothing. While I’m glad for any story of recovery, it is wrong morally and scientifically to hijack the story and claim that laetrile was the real cause. As I revealed in detail in Cancer Research Secrets, a scientific study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, published in 2010 showed that if just left alone a significant number of people recover naturally from cancer.

You have to prove that what you were doing was not one of these lucky outcomes. You would also have to prove that the patient did nothing else at the same time. If anyone changes their diet and takes laetrile, I know for sure which one would produce the cure: diet. It’s PROVEN, over and over.

Also, a large number of people recover who were on chemo –  but that doesn’t necessarily mean BECAUSE of chemo. You can’t run one rule for orthodox doctors and then switch it to make it easy for alternative doctors!

So I’m sorry to prick any bubbles. Don’t write me that YOU recovered. I’m glad for you. It doesn’t prove laetrile works; it only proves you have a good immune system!

Anyway, it’s time to draw a line under laetrile, I think.

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