By Dr. Mercola
If you are old enough, you might recall a controversy in the early 1970s regarding the compound Laetrile, purported to prevent the spread of cancer. New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was ground zero in that firestorm.
In the early 1970s, America’s war on cancer was in full force, and Sloan Kettering was regarded as one of the world’s leading cancer research centers.
But Sloan Kettering’s Board of Directors swept positive findings about Laetrile under the rug when it became unprofitable and publicly unpopular for them to support it.
Their Laetrile research was done under their own roof by one of the world’s most respected cancer researchers of the day—Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura. One person—and only one—has come forward with the truth about what turned out to be one of the most reprehensible cover-ups in the history of cancer research.
In 1974, young science writer Ralph Moss had just netted his first big-time job in Sloan Kettering’s public relations department, but he soon found himself smack dab in the middle of the Laetrile fiasco.
In July 1977, Moss was no longer willing to lie on behalf of his employer, so he exposed the truth about Sloan Kettering’s conduct at a highly publicized press conference. The next business day he was fired and swiftly escorted to the door by armed guards.
This story is personally recounted in a new documentary Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan Kettering,1, 2 in which Moss reveals the full extent of the Laetrile cover-up, in its entirety, as an insider. He’s also written a book about it, called Doctored Results.
Eric Merola is an award winning documentarian whose prior work includes Burzynski: The Movie and Burzynski—Cancer is Serious Business, Part II. The experience was life changing for Ralph Moss, who has since devoted his career to independently evaluating the claims of conventional and nonconventional cancer treatments.
The fact that mainstream media has embraced this documentary with positive reviews is rather astonishing, and perhaps a sign of changing times.
“Though a documentary, it’s dramatic enough to be reminiscent of ‘The Insider,’ the whistleblowing thriller about Big Tobacco.”
—Graham Fuller, New York Daily News, August 28, 2014
What Is Laetrile?
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.
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.3
Some Laetrile proponents claim that it’s more toxic to cancer cells than to normal cells.4 Getting cyanide poisoning from apple seeds or almonds is extremely unlikely.5
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.6
Dr. Sugiura’s Research
Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura7 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.8
Then, the Cover-Up
By 1974, the findings were so positive that Sloan Kettering had signed off on clinical trials—but suddenly everything changed.9 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.10
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:11 “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 new German study, amygdalin dose-dependently reduced growth and proliferation of bladder cancer12
- 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”13
- February 2013: Amygdalin induces apoptosis in human cervical cancer cells; authors conclude it may offer a new therapeutic option for cervical cancer patients14
- August 2006: Amygdalin also induces apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells15
- February 2003: Amygdalin from Prunus persica seeds (peach pits) shows anti-tumor effects comparable to epigallocatechin gallate in green tea16
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.
Sign the Petition Now!
Ralph Moss’s organization Second Opinion has a petition urging Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to acknowledge its positive results about Laetrile from the 1970s. You can sign that petition here. Since being fired by Sloan Kettering in 1975, Ralph Moss has written or edited 12 books and three film documentaries about issues related to cancer research and treatment. He currently directs The Moss Reports, an up-to-date library of detailed reports on more than 200 types of cancer. You can obtain further information about Dr. Moss and his work on his website.
If you liked this documentary, you can support this project by renting or buying the entire package which also includes an additional 74 minutes of 'extras' exploring many other parts to this story here.
Or purchase the DVD or Blu-ray at a reduced price here.