The Mayo Clinic puts laetrile to the test to see if it is an effective cancer treatment.
My video Does Laetrile (Amygdalin or Vitamin B17) Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure? looks at amygdalin and whether it is “quackery or cure.”
A cyanide-containing compound found in apple seeds, amygdalin is ten times more concentrated in the seeds of peaches, apricots, and bitter almonds. It can be sold as a derivative called laetrile, which has been advertised with the misnomer “vitamin B17.” “Amygdalin gained high popularity among cancer patients in the 1970s” as an alternative treatment, but the reason researchers published a review of amygdalin in 2016 and why I’m doing videos about it is that it has “experienced a renaissance,” thanks to the internet.
Back in the 1970s, the FDA could only send out its Bulletin to a million doctors and other health professionals, warning them that laetrile is not only worthless, but dangerous. About ten thousand copies of the alert were posted in U.S. post offices, and The New York Times editorialized that we should be able to choose our own placebo. But laetrile was killing people. Finally, as the New England Journal of Medicine reported it, the “Supreme Court stops the nonsense” with Justice Thurgood Marshall writing the unanimous court opinion that terminally ill patients deserve the same FDA protections against unsafe drugs. At last, laetrile was banned on a federal level.
Rational argument failed to dissuade people, though, so the State stepped in, but that had the opposite effect. “Cancer victims and their families almost universally respond[ed] by accusing organized government and organized medicine of conspiracy.” At an FDA meeting, for example, a physician from M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital rhetorically asked: “‘You surely cannot believe that the quarter of a million of American physicians are sitting on a cancer cure just so they can get rich?’ He was answered with a chorus of yeses from the audience, many of whom had been borne to the hearings on chartered buses.” Some laetrile advocates were getting rich, though, like the head of the “Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy.” More like committed to the freedom of pocketing millions a year in laetrile sales.
“Laetrile’s proponents consider it to be a ‘natural cancer cure’; whereas opponents consider it ‘the slickest, most sophisticated, and certainly the most remunerative [lucrative and profitable] cancer quack promotion in medical history.’” Which is it? You don’t know until you put it to the test.
“The National Cancer Institute, in response to widespread public interest, undertook a retrospective analysis of Laetrile treatment.” In other words, it sent out a letter to every physician in the country and tens of thousands of other health professionals, and contacted all of the pro-laetrile groups, basically saying, send us the best you got. Although at least 70,000 Americans are estimated to have used laetrile, only 93 cases were submitted for evaluation, and, of those, only six appeared to be legitimate, where taking laetrile was associated with at least some partial improvement.
Now, of course, the people sending in those reports may have gotten things wrong or falsified data, but, maybe those six actually did respond to the treatment. If that’s out of 70,000 treated, though, you’d think maybe that’d just be by chance. Regardless, the fact that so many people tried it should count for something. They may have all just been boondoggled, but maybe there’s something to it. Certainly, the fact that it didn’t seem to help with any of the laboratory animal cancers doesn’t mean it couldn’t work in people. The only way to know for sure is to put it to the test: “a tightly controlled clinical trial performed in competent and experienced hands.” The Mayo Clinic accepted the challenge.
One hundred seventy-eight cancer patients were treated with it and all of the patients died rapidly. “No substantive benefit was observed in terms of cure, improvement, or stabilization of cancer, improvement of symptoms related to cancer, or extension of life span.” There were only adverse effects of cyanide toxicity.
The conclusion? “Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment.”
The books have been closed on this for more than 30 years. “Laetrile doesn’t work.” It is unsafe and ineffective. Researchers “found no sound evidence that laetrile is effective as an anticancer agent.” So, the label “unproven” cancer remedy may be too generous at this point; “it is time to vehemently assert that laetrile cancer therapy has been ‘disproven.’”
What about eating apricot seeds directly? In case you missed my previous video, check out Do Apricot Seeds Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure?.