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A Look at Laetrile

I periodically hear things about laetrile, the apricot pit extract that the FDA hates so much. For example, I struck up a short conversation with a sweet, white-haired and fiesty 80 year old woman at the California Cancer Convention in 2008. She told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was around 40 years old and that it was laetrile that rid her of the cancer. She continues to take it and has never had a reoccurance. On the flip side, an oncologist told me he made a point to study the responses of many people who claimed to have been cured by laetrile but could not find convincing proof it was the laetrile that did it.

Intrigued, I did a little research on the topic and found things worth sharing here. What really spurred me on was the discovery (to me) that President Ronald Reagan appears to have used alternative therapy (Laetrile????), since he consulted a German doctor, Dr. Hans Nieper and Dr. Charles Simone in his very successful fight against cancer.

Laetrile basics: (Why people are interested in it)

Amygdalin, Wikipedia article

Benzaldehyde, Wikipedia article

The Laetrile Saga, Part I: Cancer Treatment and Prevention

Laetrile - the answer to Cancer

The case against laetrile:

A clinical trial of amygdalin (Laetrile) in the treatment of human cancer. Volume 306:201-206 January 28, 1982 Number 4. "...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. The hazards of amygdalin therapy were evidenced in several patients by symptoms of cyanide toxicity or by blood cyanide levels approaching the lethal range. Patients exposed to this agent should be instructed about the danger of cyanide poisoning, and their blood cyanide levels should be carefully monitored. Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment. "

The Rise and Fall of Laetrile, Quackwatch

Lengthy Jail Sentence for Vendor of Laetrile—A Quack Medication to Treat Cancer Patients. FDA News.

The case for laetrile:
Ralph Moss interview: http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/ralmosphdonl.html

Amygdalin inhibits genes related to cell cycle in SNU-C4 human colon cancer cells. World J Gastroenterol 2005 September 7;11(33):5156-5161

Amygdalin Induces Apoptosis through Regulation of Bax and Bcl-2 Expressions in Human DU145 and LNCaP Prostate Cancer Cells. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 29(8) 1597—1602 (2006) "Based on these results, amygdalin shows considerable promise in the treatment of prostate cancers."

Here are some testimonials about laetrile: Source.

Were the federal studies of laetrile 'fixed'?

The Laetrile Saga, Part II: Cancer Therapy and Medical Duplicity

How does laetrile work? (Summary... they don't know.)
"Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain the anticancer effects of amygdalin. For instance, amygdalin may be specifically broken down by beta-glucosidase, which is abundant in cancer cells, and consequently cyanide is released onto the cancerous lesions wherein it exerts toxicity on the
cancer cells.37—39) Another suggestion is that amygdalin enhances the functions of pancreatic enzymes, which may prevent transformation of cancer primordial germ cells.4,38) A third hypothesis is that amygdalin (vitamin B17) restores the vitamin deficiency that could lead to metabolic disorders in cancer patients.40) In particular, Bhatti et al.41) reported that amygdalin may stimulate the immune system to produce anti-cancer activity in prostate cancer patients." Source

And that section above did not even mention the Benzaldehyde theory.

Antitumor activity of benzaldehyde. "Fifty-seven of the patients treated were evaluable; 19 patients responded completely and ten patients responded partially (greater than 50% regression)."

Ralph Moss

Amygdalin is different from laetrile. Amygdalin has 2 glucose molecules attached, whereas laetrile has only one glucose. Amygdalin activates macrophages. Link

Journal of Shanxi Medical University. 1991-01
Li Chunhua, et al (Central Laboratory)
In this study amygdalin (1.5mg/20g body weight and 3mg/20g body weight) was respectively given to mice by the i.m.route q.o.d, total six times. After that ~(99m)Tc phytas was injected i.v. into mice (20μCi/20g body weight) and the CPM of liver, lung, spleen, blood and kidney was individually determined by the γ-counter. Results show that amygdalin promotes the phagocytosis of the Kupffer's cells of liver and the macrophage of lung.
【DOI】: cnki:ISSN:1007-6611.0.1991-01-000

President Reagan's Cancers: (Note, his daughter, Maureen, died of melanoma at the age of 60). Looking closer at Maureen's case, this article from 1998 says she had her melanoma beat. By 2001 it was in her brain.

A history of President Reagans health, link, shows Reagan had (1) colon cancer, (2) basal cell carcinoma on his nose and (3) prostate cancer. The doctorzebra.com story was really fascinating and had interesting insights into the development of his Alzheimer's as well.


"I called the Reagan Library to see if the Library would confirm or deny that Dr. Nieper treated President Reagan in May of 1985. A Reagan Library employee named Jenny responded to my request. She admitted that Reagan was in Germany in May of 1985, but she would neither confirm nor deny that Dr. Nieper treated him. She told me, “President Reagan’s private medical records before, during, and after his presidency are unavailable.” In July of 1985, Dr. Nieper flew to America to attend to Reagan in his hospital recovery room, according to my source." Link

Dr. Charles Simone also consulted with President Reagan. http://www.drsimone.com/phenomenon.htm

Looks like a president of the United States knew better than to trust the mainline US cancer industry.

Dr. Hans Nieper

In Memory of Dr. Hans Nieper

Tumor Regression Work of Dr. Hans A. Nieper

Foreward to The Curious Man by Ralph Moss. Note this article goes well beyond laetrile. It even implies that Dr. Nieper himself was looking for more active compounds.

Quackwatch article: "Be Wary of Nieper Therapy" (No mention of President Reagan.)

What do I think about laetrile? I am watching it. Clearly even Dr. Nieper was looking for something better. If those Mexican suppliers did not charge such outrageous prices for their products, I might be inclined to strongly recommend it. But I know they gouge Americans really bad on this stuff and the prices they charge are way out of line. And products from Mexico are of uncertain quality and strength. See "Comparison of Three Pharmaceutical Products Obtained from Mexico and the United States: A Case Study" "From the three products tested, content analysis revealed that the amount of active ingredients for two of the products acquired in Mexico were appreciably less than the concentrations for their U.S. counterparts."

Laetrile sources:
A European doctor gets his at www.vitrend.com.

For a nice summary on how many apricot kernals you should you eat for prevention or treatment of cancer, click here.

Let me know of other reliable sources.