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Ancient Chinese substances, of the family in which laetrile is found, were used medically. Emperor Shen Nung listed kernel preparations as being useful against tumors.
Herbert Summa has written that the Egyptians,in the time of the pharaohs, also used those seeds for special purposes.
The Romans had a medicinal preparation called agua amygdalarum amarum (“bitter almond water”). It was used as a medicine for centuries.
The word “amygdalin” comes from the Greek amygdale. Celsus, Scribonius Largus,Galen, Pliny the Elder, Marcellus Empiricus, and Avicenna all used preparations containing amygdalin to treat tumors. The same is true of the medieval pharmacopoeia (Bruce Halstead, M.D.,
Amygdalin Therapy, 1977.
Laetrile is as commonplace in plants as is glucose;you eat it all the time. The substance exists in various amounts in at least 1,200 foodstuffs.
But one of the richest sources is apricot seeds (usually called apricot “pits” or kernels). Another source are “bitter almonds.” The seeds contain amygdalin and prunasin, which are the two betacyanogenetic
glucosides (BCG) of special medical interest. These BCGs are also called nitrilosides,although sometimes the word is applied only to amygdalin.These are enzymes, and amygdalin is also a vitamin; therefore it has been given the name, Vitamin B17. The other name for this, laetrile, comes from the scientific description of the chemical nature of this substance: LAEvo-mandeloniTRILE.But, for the technically minded, the name “laetrile”is derived from a compound which is a levo (left-moving)-mandelopitrile-betaglucouronoside.
Ernst T. Krebs, Jr., who coined the terms,laetrile, nitriloside, and vitamin B17, defines the nitilosides as “water-soluble, essentially nontoxic,sugary compounds found in . . plants, many of which are edible . . They comprise molecules made of a sugar, hydrogen cyanide, a bensene ring or an acetone” (Krebs, Jr., Journal of Applied Nutrition,22:3-4, 1970).
Throughout this study, as in all medical literature on the subject, the words amygdalin, laetrile,and vitamin B17 are interchangeable. But,throughout earlier history, amygdalin had been the common term for the substance.In 1830, Pierre Jean Robiquet and Boutron,prepared it in its pure state. In 1837, two German scientist, Justus von Liebig and Friedrich Wohler,discovered that amygdalin is split by an enzyme, colmopex, into one molecule of hydrogen cyanide,one of benzaldehyde, and two molecules of sugar.
They found the enzyme complex, with glucoside,in the bitter almond. Today, the apricot pit is one of the richest natural sources.In 1845, the scientific literature contained the first report on the use of amygdalin in cancer. A Russian professor claimed that using the substance apparently brought about controls in two cases of widely spread cancers. This first documented use of a laetrile-like substance in treating cancer is referred to in the Gazette Medicale de Paris, tome XIII, of September 13, 1845. Dr. T. Inosemtzeff, professor of the Imperial University of Moscow, cited two cancer patients who were treated with bitter almond emulsion. Both were successful; one living for 11 years, the other for over three years. It is believed that this was the first time in modern Western Civilization that cancerwas treated with a food factor.
Earlier in this book, we reported on the research work of John Beard, but we will discuss it again here—since it figured so significantly into the research work of the Krebs.
In the late 1800s, a Scottish physician, Dr. John Beard (1845-1924) developed a theory of cancer which modern advocates of laetrile therapy believe helps to explain the function of this substance in treating malignancies. Yet he never personally used amygdalin.Beard published his findings, in 1902, in the British journal Lancet and then, in 1911, in his book, The Enzyme Treatment of Cancer and Its Scientific Basis. He elaborated on a theory which, although remarkably different, was relatively simple. At the time, it received little interest and some hostility. Beard’s book was rediscovered by the Krebs research team in 1938.
Here, very briefly, is the Beardian, or trophoblastic,theory of cancer:The trophoblast was first identified in 1857 and named in 1876. This mysterious cell plays a specific role in pregnancy: It eats out a niche in the uterine wall, where the fertilized egg can gain nutrition from the mother’s bloodstream.Its name comes from the Greek words for “nourishment” and “tissue”; and, in orthodox embryology,it is said to be a layer of extra embryonic ectoderm.
The trophoblast is an invading, autonomous,erosive cell that, during pregnancy, is found in the blood and other organs outside the uterus. But the activity of the trophoblast puzzled Beard.It does things which the cancer cell does! Could it be that the trophoblast—a natural part of the human life cycle and cancer are the same thing?
To find out, Beard traced the histories of both kinds of cells. In order to study the fertilized egg many times at all its various stages, he worked with small creatures called elasmobranches.Gradually, he found that the trophoblast arises,in some manner, from the primitive, undifferentiated germ cell.But later, something dramatic happens. Beard discovered that it is in the 56th day, in the span of human gestation, that the cellular trophoblast begins to undergo a dramatic deterioration! Something checks the further growth of the gestational trophoblast.These invading cells which have overpowered and eroded other cells,—begins to diminish and stop functioning.
But there is one exception: This is when one of the most malignant forms of cancer (cancer of the chorion) develops. When that happens, both the mother and child can die in a matter of weeks.
Physicians in Beard’s day acknowledged that trophoblasts had something to do with that sudden, fatal illness. John Beard determined to find the cause: What caused the trophoblast to shut down or fail to shut down?—hence determining whether the fetus will live or deadly chrioepithelioma will develop.
Beard found that this 56th day shutting down occurs at the very same time that the fetal pancreas begins secreting. As he studied further, he decided that the pancreatic enzymes are responsible for checking the growth of the gestational trophoblast, even though it is not entirely destroyed.
Here we have trophoblasts, which, just like cancer cells, are invasive, corrosive, diversive, and able to metastasize (spread)—yet are a normal part of the life cycle, and naturally brought into check by the body.
Beard then found that some of these primitive germ cells, able later to become a trophoblast,eventually circulate throughout the system. Could it be that, if they try to become a trophoblast outside the uterus, cancer will be the name given to the process?
Beard therefore reasoned that, if pancreatic enzymes could inhibit cancer during gestation,surely they—or some other enzymes—could stop the growth of cancer.Beard also believed that the stereochemical structure of cancer proteins and carbohydrates is opposite to the structure of the same things in normal cells.
That is Beard’s theory, also called the trophoblastic theory of cancer.
Ernst T. Krebs, Sr., and his son, Ernst T. Krebs, Jr. carried on further research along similar lines,but did not discover Beard’s theory until 1938.
But, by that time, they had already made several other discoveries. Both the father and son were remarkably brilliant.
Born in 1877, Ernst T. Krebs, Sr., earned a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, San Francisco. He was living there in 1906 when the great earthquake struck. Having lost everything, he moved his family to Carson City,Nevada. While practicing there, Ernst T. Krebs,Jr., the first of his four children was born. At about the same time, he adopted an orphan Washoe Indian girl.
Krebs, Sr., though a physician, had also studied pharmacy, and used his spare time in biomedical investigation. Moving to San Francisco’s Mission District, he set up a laboratory in his home, a large mansion on South Van Ness Avenue; and,across the street, above a pharmacy, he had his medical office. As Krebs, Jr., was growing up, he worked closely with his father in his research work.
In 1918, Krebs, Sr., discovered an antibiotic mold which was successful in respiratory diseases.But, upon learning that the AMA did not like what he had done (it was 10 years before Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin), he withdrew from membership in the AMA and never returned.
During the Prohibition in the 1920s, Krebs,Sr., accepted some business, analyzing whiskey smuggled on ships into San Francisco. The smugglers were worried that it might contain wood alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), which is deadly. So Krebs accepted the job of analyzing it, to be sure it was grain alcohol (ethyl alcohol).
This got him interested in what kind of enzyme in the wooden barrels caused certain taste changes in the liquor. He found that mold on the barrel produced enzymes which affected the taste.Released into alcohol, they worked on the raw whiskey. The aging process took a long time, because only a small amount of mold was released at a time.
Dr. Charles Gurchot, a pharmacologist who worked with Krebs, Sr., for years in the pursuit of the enzymatic control of cancer, later recalled,“This was the cataclysmic event. Dr. Krebs told me, ‘When I saw that enzyme doing all that digesting,it occurred to me it could be useful in cancer.’ ”
This idea—that some type of enzyme might be able to digest cancer cells—become something of an obsession. In the early 1920s, Krebs,Sr., started searching for rats with cancers. Finding them, he would inject them with the enzyme and see what happened. Sometimes the tumor disappeared.
Krebs, Sr., was sure he was on to something.But then his initial batch of enzymes ran out,and subsequent batches were not effective in eliminating tumors. So Krebs, Sr., made another crucial decision—which was a glorious mistake! He wanted to find a source of oak enzyme, and he thought to himself, “the oak belongs to the rose family, so I need to obtain the extract of a plant in that family.”
Now, the oak does not belong to the rose family;Krebs was a better chemist than botanist. But,just about that time, it turned out that the Washoe Indian girl who he had earlier adopted married a young, wealthy man from the Hawaiian Islands.They bought an apricot orchard, across the Bay in Oakland.
Now Krebs, Sr., had a source of a member of the rose family (apricots, peaches, almonds, etc.,are in that family). —His error had led him to the richest source of amygdalin (laetrile) in the Western world. Yet, at this time, he knew nothing about it.
So Krebs, Sr., made an extract from the apricot kernels—and found it worked even better than ever in eliminating cancer in rats.At that time, the process (which he greatly improved later) consisted of removing the oil from the seeds, grinding them up in water, filtering the mixture, precipitating the filtrate with alcohol, drying the precipitate, redissolving it, then injecting it.
Krebs, Sr., was certain that he was extracting enzyme substances from the apricot pit. Among these substances, he tentatively identified emulsin,amygdalase, prunase, pectinase, and others. At the time, he thought emulsin was the active ingredient.
By this time, he was purchasing mice with specially inbred tendencies to cancer. Most of the time,the mice were healed, but sometimes they suddenly died. Krebs did not yet realize what was causing the mice to suddenly die and how to solve the problem. It was not until later that, in solving this,he was able to better purify the extract.
In 1928 or 1929, Krebs gave the injections to humans—and found a consistent pattern of pain reduction and other good signs. But he kept trying to devise a way to produce a purer extract.
Gurchot later recalled that, of the first 25 or so patients, there were no toxic effects, other than occasional complaints of feeling chilly or “crawling of ants” in the tumor area. In nearly all cases,the tumor either was reduced or completely disappeared.
At about the same time, several other physicians started working with him, and injecting the substance in their San Francisco area clinics.Then one day, without telling Krebs, Sr.,Gurchot prepared a batch of extract with all the enzymes killed. When Krebs, Sir., said it worked fine, Gurchot told him all the enzymes were dead.
Immediately, Krebs knew that the presence of live enzymes was not a factor.
The team worked into the 1940s before they figured out the nature of the active ingredient.At this point we will jump ahead to the late 1930s. By that time, there were several physicians throughout the world using Kreb’s method, including Dr. James Ewing, in New York City.
All the while, young Ernst Krebs, Jr., had been growing up, helping in the lab, cleaning up, and learning how to do research work. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology at the University of Illinois, he went on to obtain a master’s in pharmacology, and a doctorate in anatomy.
In 1938, young Krebs found John Beard’s 1911 book, The Enzyme Treatment of Cancer.
The Krebs and Gurchot was astounded.The challenge of Beard caused the young Krebs to decide he would give his life to figuring out the cancer riddle. This was when he switched from medicine to biochemistry. He eventually amassed nine years of university studies in a variety of fields.
In the process, he taught himself to read French,German, Spanish, and Italian, so he could go through 17,000 scientific papers and books.
The apricot extract had been a consistent problem.It contained an unaccounted toxicity. When the extract was injected into the cancerous laboratory animals, the tumors would definitely become smaller in a matter of days. But more of the animals were dying than he anticipated, and not from cancer. Krebs knew that the kernels contained amygdalin, a cyanide-bearing substance; so, when he made his next batch, he eliminated as much of the amygdalin as he could. This time the deaths among the animals decreased drastically, but so did the tumor response. It was obvious that he had years of work ahead of him, tailoring the apricot seed formula. They had consistently found that the purer the preparation was made, the larger the dosage could be in animals without any side effects.
At this juncture, they decided to set aside the apricot kernel project—and apply themselves to Beard’s theory.
The Krebs, Sr.; Krebs, Jr.; and Gurchot collaboration team set to work on chymotrypsin, the pancreatic enzyme that Beard said was the blocker of the trophoblast—and cancer. In 1943, they developed the first crystalline chymotrypsin commercially available in the world.
They sent it out to physicians who tried it out.Gurchot (in Chicago at the time) tried it on 50 or 60 patients, and only one made a complete recovery.
In 1947, Krebs, Sr., publicly announced 30 characteristics shared by the tropoblast cell and the cancer cell, noted the specific antithesis of chymotrypsin to cancer cells. By 1950, the two Krebs,with the help of a Texas biochemist, Howard Beard (no relation to John Beard), published their landbook, The Unitarian or Trophoblastic Thesis of Cancer, in the Medical Record.
But the chymotrypsin experiments were not succeeding. The patients would improve, but the symptoms return. So Krebs, Jr., made a major decision: He dropped the pancreatic enzyme project,—and returned to that earlier apricot kernel extract his father had used.
But what in that extract caused the tumors to reduce and the pain to leave? And what caused its toxic symptoms?
As he tried to improve the method of extraction,he decided that it must be the cyanide in the amygdalin which was eliminating the cancer. But what about all those other factors plus enzymes in the extract? Where did they figure into the riddle?
Could it be that the cyanide was both the blessing and the curse of the old extract—that selective release of cyanide at the site of the tumor inhibited the tumor, but that sometimes it released prematurely—possibly by the action of emulsin during the extraction process?
One day in 1949, Krebs, Jr., put a quantity of the apricot preparation into a test tube. He added a quantity of glycosidase—an enzyme known to be especially abundant in cancer tissue. He waited a few moments to give the two substances a chance to work on each other. Then he took a sniff. Cyanide.
The glycosidase had caused the cynanide,safely locked inside the apricot preparation—to be released.
Triumphant, he realized his theory was true!
But he also knew he had smelled something very dangerous, so he ran outside and breathed deep for a time.
They had solved the mystery.
Here is the solution to the riddle:Laetrile (amygdalin, vitamin B17) is a cyanide-containing compound that gives up its cyanide only in the presence of a certain enzyme group, called beta glucosidase or glucuronidase.
But the miracle of nature is that this particular enzyme group is only found (to any appreciable extent) in cancer tissue.
When it is found elsewhere, it is always accompanied by greater quantities of another enzyme,called rhodanese, which has the capacity to convert the cyanide immediately into completely harmless substances (some of which help produce and utilize other vitamins). But cancer tissue does not have this protecting enzyme.So cancer tissue is especially defenseless against laetrile for two reasons:
(1) It has beta glucosidase, which laetrile releases its lockedin cyanide in the presence of, and\
(2) it does not have the enzyme, rhodanese, which protects non-cancer cells by converting the cyanide immediately into harmless substances.
The result is that the cancer cells are destroyed by laetrile, whereas the non-malignant cells are not harmed.
At this point, two intriguing facts stand out.First, Beard’s theory, that pancreatic enzyme would destroy cancer, did not prove to be correct. Second,it does not appear that Beard’s theory of the trophoblast, although evidence indicates it to be true, was needed to bring the laetrile through to a useful method of treatment. The only factors in common seemed to be that both were keyed to enzymes as being involved in the treatment of cancer.
But beta glycosidases and rhodanese are quite different than Beard’s pancreatic enzyme.
In 1977, the publishers of one of the most popular dictionaries in the world contacted the McNaughton Foundation, and asked them to define the meaning of the word, “laetrile.” Here is the definition they provided:
“Laetrile—(Lay-eh-tril)“Basic Ingredients: An organic aglycone or non-sugar protein combined with a cyanide group and carbohydrate in glycosidic linkage to form a single tightly bound molecule.
“Chemical formula: Since laetrile is a collective name for a group of chemically related compounds, the generic name for which is nitriloside, it cannot be given a specific chemical formula. A well-known analogy is digitalis which represents a general group of chemically related compounds to which no specific formula can be assigned.
“Etymology: Originally used as a shortened term for a laevo-rotatory glycuronic nitrile. Its meaning has been expanded to represent a shortened term for any laevo-rotatory glucosidic or glucuronic chemical compound containing an aglycone and a tightly bound (CN)grouping.”—McNaughton Foundation.
That definition will help the medical researchers who use this present book. It is questionable if it helped the poor folk who were trying to revise their dictionary.
The next step for Krebs, Jr., was to further refine the extract until what it amounted to was purified amygdalin. Only then could the cyanide remain safely bound in its compound until it reached the hydrolytic enzymes, which would break it apart at the cancer sites.
The process for extracting the laetrile from the apricot pits is not a secret. Here is the formula:
“The first step in the present production,which is from natural materials, is to grind the apricot seed or kernel; then it is defatted with a cold solvent, such as ether, hexachlorine, or other such substance, and the solvent is driven from the remaining ground pulp, and a completely fat free powder which is partially soluble in water is left.
“The laetrile (amygdalin) in this powder as well as the sugars are also soluble in alcohol,and laetrile happens to be selectively soluble in boiling alcohol (about 40 times greater than cold alcohol). The fat free powder is then added to boiling alcohol where laetrile is extracted from the powder and then the materials are filtered.
“The filtrate that remains is put in a freezing cabinet, or refrigerator or cold room, where the temperature is brought down to about 10 degrees Centigrade. The crystals of laetrile precipitate or fall to the bottom of the flask because in cold alcohol the material is insoluble.
“Now these crystals are recovered and the process of recrystallization is repeated a number of times, depending on whether the material is to be used for oral purposes or for injection.“When the chemicals are dried the first time,they have a chemical purity of about 99.7 or 99.8 percent pure. For oral purposes, it is repeated twice.”—Ernst T. Krebs, Jr., address to the San Francisco Vegetarian Society, 1974.
Throughout their work, neither the Krebs, nor any other laetrile worker tried to patent or control any of the various processes. It was made available to any physician, laboratory, or research group—anywhere in the world.
In 1949, Krebs, Jr., injected himself with the first human shot of the purified substance. He had researched the matter enough that he had not the slightest concern that it would poison him.
Had he had cancer—anywhere in his body,—the enzymes would have triggered the lethal release of cyanide at the site of the tumor while his noncancerous tissue would have been protected by rhodanese. If he had no cancer, thebody’s natural processes would slough off the laetrile naturally.
That is why it is good to eat apple seeds,apricot kernels, etc. They help eliminate cancer in its early stages, years before it reaches the critical final phase. (But, of course, other changes must also be made in the diet and lifestyle, if one wants to avoid cancer.)
It was at this time that Krebs, Jr., gave the substance the name “laetrile.”In 1950, the first laetrile treatment of human cancers, always to terminal patients, was given intramuscularly—and involved only 10 milligrams. That was but a fraction, compared to the size of doses given today. A small dose was given back then, because the amount of cyanide rhodanese which the body could tolerate was not yet known. Decrease in pain always occurred but, because of the small dosage, death always followed; yet sometimes it was prolonged far beyond the expected time.
By 1952, Krebs, Sr.’s, two sons, Ernst T. Krebs,Jr., Ph.D., and Byron Krebs, M.D., had greatly improved the processing of laetrile. The extract was being prepared better, and the theory clearly established.
Within a couple years, physicians in various parts of the United States, England, Belgium, Italy,the Philippines, and Japan were giving laetrile. It was soon discovered that dosages up to 400 mg could be given with no harmful effects, and that intravenous injections accomplished far more than intramuscular ones.
Beginning in November 1952, the laetrile treatment battles began, initially with the California Cancer Commission and later with various federal agencies.
“Laetrile is one of the naturally occurring substances that cannot be patented, making it a true orphan drug. No drug company is interested in committing money to research laetrile’s potential.”—R. Pelton and L. Overholser, Alternatives in Cancer Therapy, 160.
Unfortunately, the industry formula appears to be “If you cannot control and market it, fight it.”
The basic 1953 report, used repeatedly thereafter against the use of laetrile by physicians, was written by Drs. Ian MacDonald and Henry L. Garland. It is of interest that they had earlier teamed up on a report which attempted to disprove the U.S. surgeon general’s report, that cigarette smoking causes cancer. (MacDonald later died in a fire,caused by a lighted cigarette; and Garland died of lung cancer from smoking.) Some people suspected that “the trade” knew that those two doctors would write research reports that were slanted whichever way their hiring agency instructed them.
This report caused the use of laetrile in the U.S. to decline for awhile, but people started traveling overseas to obtain treatments.
In 1962, Judge W.T. Sweigert, of the San Francisco District Court, allowed limited distribution of amygdalin supplies to the McNaughton Foundation in Canada and several American physicians for investigation and/or treatment.
By order of the FDA, on November 1, 1963,laetrile was banned from interstate shipments, except for animal testing. This meant it could only be investigated and used in California (which had a court order permitting it there).
On May 15, 1965, the Canadian equivalent of the AMA turned against laetrile. This turned the attention of cancer sufferers to Mexico, where it was announced that a preliminary study had been carried out “under government auspices with most encouraging results.”
On August 2, 1965, Ernst Krebs, Sr., agreed to a permanent court injunction against further distribution of laetrile. On February 3, 1966, he was given a one-year suspended sentence for failing to register as a producer of drugs. This was not a setback, since the Krebs had made known the entire process, at no charge, to a number of laboratories and physicians requesting it.
After the 1953 California Report, patients had been forced to go abroad for treatment—to the Philippines (Dr. Manuel D. Navarro, professor of biochemistry and therapeutics at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila) and Italy (Dr. Ettore Guidetti of the University of Turin).
In 1966, a leading German researcher and author,Dr. Hans Nieper, in Hanover, West Germany,began administering laetrile—and in far larger doses than Krebs, with excellent results.
Then there was Dr. Shigeaki Sakai, in Matsuyama,Japan; he was also successfully treating cancer with laetrile.
Cancer sufferers also went to Mexico. Dr.Ernesto Contreras, a graduate of the Mexican Army Medical School, who did postgraduate work in Boston, opened a new clinic in Tijuana, just below the southern California border. Mexico gave laetrile and the Contreras Clinic full approval in 1973.
Most of these physicians and researchers wrote scientific reports about their work in journals all over the world.
As of 1974, Contreras had about a thousand new patients a year, the great majority of which were terminal. He said that only 60% of them showed a response, ranging from a feeling of well-being and cessation of pain to the regaining of weight. Of the 60%, only about half had recurrences of the disease after a temporary arrest of three to six months. A patient was considered to have his cancer “controlled,” if he experienced five symptom-free years. But he must remain on laetrile tablets for the rest of his life.
Gradually, a number of physicians would come to realize that laetrile, alone, was NOT the answer! The solution was total nutritional change. Many things must be dropped, many added. Many changes in lifestyle must be made.
(Some of the changes, which laetrile doctors began requiring of their patients, will be listed at the close of this article.)
But, even for those who died within a few years, the cost of treatment was relatively low,and far freer from the horrible pains accompanying the orthodox procedures.(A related fact was that those patients who had earlier received chemotherapy, radiation,or surgery—were far less likely to respond well to laetrile. Their bodies had been too greatly weakened.)
Following massive intravenous laetrile injections,patients were sent home with laetrile tablets and strict orders to remain on them for the remainder of their lives.
It is an extremely important fact, which to their sorrow many recovered cancer patients have learned, too late,—is that when a person contracts cancer, and recovery appears to be made;—if he thereafter relaxes his efforts to eat and live carefully, the cancer will very often return and renewed treatments will not be effective in remitting the cancer, as had occurred earlier! This is a solemn fact to be kept in mind.
Dr. Dean Burk, one of the founders of the National Cancer Institute, was world famous for his research work and writings, and served for many years as head of its cytology department. He was also famous for being a maverick within the Cancer Establishment. He disliked bureaucracy, red tape, professional fudging, and was quite blunt in speaking out when he ran into such problems.
Challenged by Andrew McNaughton (a wealthy individual who had befriended the laetrile cause)to test laetrile, Burk did so. Among the tests Burk conducted was this one: He put a quantity of live cancer cells into a Warburk flask with laetrile and the enzyme, beta glucosidase. He then stained the cancer cells with tryptan blue and placed them under a microscope where, he reported to McNaughton, he could “see the cancer cells dying off like flies.”
As a result, Burk became a staunch defender of laetrile. (1) It was Dean Burk who, digging into records, discovered that although the FDA banned bitter almonds in this country, the agency’s own publications listed extracts of bitter almonds as an approved substance for general use.
(2) It was Burk who also established that laetrile,as vitamin B17, was a valid vitamin and therefore not subject to the FDA regulations on new drugs.
(3) Burk also determined that laetrile could be taken orally. This research was later confirmed by Dr. Nieper in Germany. This discovery greatly helped patients keep on a maintenance dosage at home.
In February 1971, state agents arrested Krebs,Jr., along with four others, on a variety of state health-law violations.
On September 1, 1971, the FDA announced that its “blue-ribbon panel” had found “no acceptable evidence of therapeutic effect to justify clinical trials” of laetrile. It appeared that laetrile, like all its forerunner alternative therapies, was doomed to extinction in America.
John A. Richardson, M.D., lived and practiced medicine in Albany, California, just across the Bay from San Francisco. In the 1960s, he contacted Dr. Krebs, Jr.; and, after many talks with him, he began giving laetrile to his terminal cancer patients.
Success brought many more cancer patients.“I was totally unprepared for my first visit to the Richardson Clinic. As a nurse, I had spent considerable time on cancer wards and I knew what to expect: the awful odor of decaying flesh and the sallow faces of forlorn patients who have been condemned to a sub-human existence as they await their inevitable fate.
“No one likes to be in the presence of death and, because there is so little that orthodox medicine can do other than mask the pain with mind-dulling drugs, the doctor and nurse often avoid the terminal cancer patient as much as is ethically acceptable. Examinations are brief. Conversation is kept to a minimum.Where possible, the patient is assigned to staff subordinates. Cancer wards and cancer clinics all are pretty much the same: impersonal,smelly, and depressing.
“It was to my amazement, therefore, to discover that the Richardson Clinic did not fit this morbid pattern. The first thing that struck me was that the patients awaiting treatment were engaged in animated conversation. They were talking, not only about their illness but about their children and grandchildren, about the cross-country sightseeing trip they were planning just as soon as they felt strong enough,and of their ultimate return to work. These people were not preoccupied with death; they were planning for life!
“Then I noticed the attitude of the staff. They actually enjoyed being with the patients and spent considerable time with each. They derived genuine satisfaction from learning of the improvement over the previous visit. Their jokes with the patients were not those strained little condescending attempts to be cheerful in the face of tragedy but rather the genuine outbursts of people who were finding fun in their work.
“And, finally, I suddenly became aware that the air was completely free from the fetid smell associated with growing cancer.
“A middle-aged man stepped from the clinic area into the waiting room and, with a big grin,announced to the patients that this was the last day of treatment for Mrs. So-and-so (everyone responded to the name), that she was headed back to Illinois in the morning, and that everyone was invited to a party to celebrate her departure.
“A party in a cancer clinic?!”—Patricia Griffin,R.N., B.S., quoted in J.A. Richardson and P. Griffin, Laetrile Case Histories, xv-xvi.
After a variety of episodes, at 10 o’clock on June 2, 1972, Richardson and two nurses were arrested, and his clinic and car ransacked.
Richardson was a little different than some other folk. He was one of those people who, when opposed over a principle he believed in, had a personality like granite. All across the nation, men had given in. Richardson would not give in.
The battle went on for months, and lengthened into years. There seemed to be no end to it. Neither the government nor Richardson would yield an inch in the ongoing legal battles.
At one point, one of his attorneys, George Kell,argued in court that, on the basis of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision, in which the Court held that the doctor had the absolute right to take the life of a human fetus, Kell convincingly claimed that there was a “hideous anomaly in the law,” in that the cancer patient did not have the right to freedom of choice to save his own life—which the mother had in taking the life of her unborn baby!
But a key defense was the fact that the substance was a nutritional factor, B17. The physician is actually treating a metabolic disorder with vitamin therapy. The patient also happens to have cancer.
Here are the five properties of a true vitamin,all of which laetrile fulfills:
“1 – It is a nutritional component of organic composition required in small amounts for the complete health and well-being of the organism.
“2 – Vitamins are not utilized primarily to supply energy or as a source of structural tissue components of the body.
“3 – A vitamin functions to promote a physiologic process or processes vital to the continued existence of the organism.
“4 – A vitamin cannot be synthesized by the cells or the organism and must be supplied de novo [anew each time].
“5 – In man and in other mammals, deficiency of a specific vitamin is the cause of certain rather well-defined diseases.”—David Greenberg,Western Journal of Medicine, April 1975.
Medical doctors were puzzled by the fact that amygdalin had been well-known and listed in the United States Pharmacopeia as a nontoxic substance for over a hundred years while FDA-approved methods of cancer treatment were extremely toxic.
In the course of their research, the father and son Krebs also pioneered the discovery of pangametin (pangamic acid), which they named vitamin B15. The AMA refused to acknowledged the fact.
However, belatedly, in the July 23, 1973 issue of the AMA Journal, it was noted that “another vitamin,synthesized by Prof. [Vasili] Bukin earlier, is vitamin B15; this chemical entity aids in stimulating oxidative processes and energy exchange.” The truth was that it was the Krebs who made that discovery. The best sources of B15 are apricot kernels,rice bran, and brewer’s yeast.
In the summer of 1976, a team of physicians and researchers from Israel visited the laetrile clinics in operation in Mexico and California; and,upon their return home and over the signature of Dr. David Rubin (surgeon at the Beilinson Hospital and cancer researcher at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem), they issued a detailed September 1, 1976, report praising laetrile as an effective treatment against cancer.
By that year, Dr. Richardson had received more legal harassment from the state than any other physician in its history. He had his license suspended,had been arrested, hauled off to jail twice,and four times made to stand trial for using laetrile.
He had spent more than six months defending himself in court. In the fourth trial they succeeded in securing a conviction against him; but he appealed his case, and the battled was continuing.
Why did he undergo this treatment? Why did he not give up? Richardson knew that the lives of untold thousands depended on his standing true to principle in this matter.
Because Richardson had been a active member of the John Birch Society, when the medical authorities began picking on him,—the thousands of members of the John Birch Society throughout America rose to the defense of a fellow “Bircher.”
Although some cared little for health matters, they saw in his case government intrusion on the rights of the individual.
In addition, all across the nation people were uniting in organizations—demanding the right to be treated with laetrile. Richardson’s ongoing fight, which others entered into in their own areas, brought the matter to a showdown.
The court order, allowing Americans to bring laetrile into the U.S. and even to have it mailed to them, was signed by Judge Luther Bohanon on April 8, 1977.
Lawyers for the FDA quickly asked Judge Bohanon to amend his court order, so that it would stipulate that American cancer patients could obtain laetrile only upon affidavits signed by their doctors saying that they were only a few weeks or a few months away from death. Judge Bohanon rejected the appeal.
The FDA then announced that it would continue to oppose laetrile regardless of what happened in its favor in the courts of the land or the state legislatures of the country.
By the end of 1977, more than a dozen state legislatures had legalized, within their borders,the administration and prescription of laetrile by physicians to their patients and the right of others to obtain it by mail from places selling it, so they could take it at home.
But certain federal agencies were unrelenting.Laetrile had become the hottest issue in terms of state’s rights since the Civil War—for threats had been made to send in federal agents to shut down laetrile production facilities and arrest anyone trafficking in laetrile in any way whatsoever.
The question becomes: If a state legislature cannot determine the laws applicable within its own borders, then what was the sense of having a state legislature in the first place?
Then in November 1977, the California Court of Appeals reversed the decision of a lower court, in the conviction of four people charged with conspiracy to sell laetrile and one physician(James Privatera) who was charged with using the substance in the treatment of his cancer patients.
Next, in 1978, a federal court ruled that “laetrile (amygdalin) is exempt from the ‘new drug’requirements” of the FDA; and that “the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and his subordinates in the Food and Drug Administration are hereby permanently enjoined and restrained from interfering with the use of laetrile (amygdalin) for the care or treatment of cancer by a person who is, or believes he is, suffering from the disease.
The same order also prohibited interference with the importation and introduction into interstate commerce of laetrile on the basis of any alleged “new drug” status. The HEW and FDA were, finally, prohibited from interfering “with any licensed medical practitioner in administering laetrile (amygdalin) in the care or treatment of his cancer patients.”
An FDA appeal, to delay enforcement of this ruling until the case could be heard by the 10thCircuit Court of Appeals in Denver, was denied on December 24, 1978.
By the end of the 1970s, some 17 states had legalized the use of laetrile. A number of other states were considering the matter.
(Charles Moertel, “A Trial of laetrile Now An estimated 50 000 to 100 000 patients used more than a million grams of laetrile,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 26, 1978).
In June 1979, the Supreme Court handed down its decision. Prior to that decision, cancer patients were able to receive laetrile legally from their physicians under an affidavit system set up by federal circuit judge, Luther Bohanon.
The main practical effect of the decision, by the high court, was to remand the case to the Circuit Court of Appeals for review. Thus, the affidavit system still remained in effect.
As result of all the ongoing legal activity, physicians,researchers, and common citizens were able to purchase, use, and ship laetrile. In addition to the two clinics in Tijuana, Mexico, which treated cancer with laetrile (the Contreras Clinic and Clinica Cydel), there are two laetrile processing plants which purify and shipped out the substances to those desiring it.
Between the 1970s and the mid-1990s, 70,000 people had used laetrile to treat cancer.At the present time, about 21 states allow the use of laetrile in cancer treatment while other states have revoked medical licenses for doing so.
The McNaughton Foundation has published a Physician’s Handbook of Vitamin B17 Therapy,which summarizes the various methods of administering laetrile. Here they are:
• Laetrile is available in tablet form, for maintenance therapy.
• Laetrile solutions have been used as nighttime retention enemas, and have been instilled directly into the intestines through an already existing colostomy.
• Gauze-soaked solutions of laetrile (or a water-soluble salve) have been placed on open skin lesions.
• Injections are put directly into the tumors! The tumor wall should not be penetrated. Instead,the injections are placed into the artery above the tumor site. This provides maximum concentration of laetrile in the tumor. Intra-arterial injections should only be done in a hospital setting by qualified personnel!