Does Amygdalin or Vitamin B-17 Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure?

Does Amygdalin or Vitamin B-17 Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure?
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The Mayo Clinic puts amygdalin to the test to see if it is an effective cancer treatment.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Amygdalin, quackery or cure?” Amygdalin is a cyanide-containing compound found in apple seeds, but 10 times more concentrated in the seeds of peaches, apricots, and bitter almonds. It can be sold as a derivative called laetrile, advertised with the misnomer vitamin B-17. It gained popularity among cancer patients as an alternative treatment in the 1970s, but the reason there’s this 2016 review, and the reason I’m doing videos about it, is that it has “experienced a renaissance” thanks to the internet.

Back then, all the FDA could do was send out a bulletin to a million doctors and other health professionals, warning them that laetrile is not only worthless but dangerous. Ten thousand copies were made for posting in post offices. The New York Times editorialized that people should be able “to choose their own placebo,” but the stuff was killing people. Finally, as the New England Journal of Medicine reported it, the “Supreme Court stops the nonsense,” with Thurgood Marshall writing the unanimous court opinion that terminally ill patients deserve the same FDA protections against unsafe drugs, and it was banned on a federal level.

Rational argument failed to dissuade people; and so, the State stepped in, but that had the opposite effect, with cancer victims and their families accusing the government and mainstream medicine of “a grand conspiracy.” At an FDA meeting, for example, an M.D. Anderson doc rhetorically asked: “Surely you can’t believe that the quarter of a million 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.” Who was getting rich were some of the laetrile advocates, like the head of the “Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy,” 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 [the most lucrative, profitable] cancer quack promotion in medical history.’” But you don’t know which…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, they sent a letter out to every physician in the country, plus tens of thousands of other health professionals, contacted all the pro-laetrile groups and basically said send us the best you got. “Although it is estimated that at least 70,000 Americans had used [the stuff], only 93 cases were submitted for evaluation,” and of those, only six appeared to be legit, 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 just made stuff up—falsified data—but hey, 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. But hey, the fact that so many people tried it should count for something. Yes, 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 still work in people. The only way to know for sure is to put it to the test: a 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 the patients died rapidly. “No substantive benefit was observed in terms of cure, improvement, or even stabilization of cancer, [nor] improvement of symptoms, [nor] extension of life span.” Only adverse effects of “cyanide toxicity.” Conclusion: “Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment.”

The books, then, were closed on it for more than 30 years. Laetrile doesn’t work— “unsafe and ineffective.” “No sound evidence that laetrile is effective as an anticancer agent.” So, “[t]he label ‘unproven’ cancer remedy may be too generous at this point; it is time to vehemently assert that laetrile cancer therapy has been ‘disproven.’”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: RitaE via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Amygdalin, quackery or cure?” Amygdalin is a cyanide-containing compound found in apple seeds, but 10 times more concentrated in the seeds of peaches, apricots, and bitter almonds. It can be sold as a derivative called laetrile, advertised with the misnomer vitamin B-17. It gained popularity among cancer patients as an alternative treatment in the 1970s, but the reason there’s this 2016 review, and the reason I’m doing videos about it, is that it has “experienced a renaissance” thanks to the internet.

Back then, all the FDA could do was send out a bulletin to a million doctors and other health professionals, warning them that laetrile is not only worthless but dangerous. Ten thousand copies were made for posting in post offices. The New York Times editorialized that people should be able “to choose their own placebo,” but the stuff was killing people. Finally, as the New England Journal of Medicine reported it, the “Supreme Court stops the nonsense,” with Thurgood Marshall writing the unanimous court opinion that terminally ill patients deserve the same FDA protections against unsafe drugs, and it was banned on a federal level.

Rational argument failed to dissuade people; and so, the State stepped in, but that had the opposite effect, with cancer victims and their families accusing the government and mainstream medicine of “a grand conspiracy.” At an FDA meeting, for example, an M.D. Anderson doc rhetorically asked: “Surely you can’t believe that the quarter of a million 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.” Who was getting rich were some of the laetrile advocates, like the head of the “Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy,” 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 [the most lucrative, profitable] cancer quack promotion in medical history.’” But you don’t know which…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, they sent a letter out to every physician in the country, plus tens of thousands of other health professionals, contacted all the pro-laetrile groups and basically said send us the best you got. “Although it is estimated that at least 70,000 Americans had used [the stuff], only 93 cases were submitted for evaluation,” and of those, only six appeared to be legit, 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 just made stuff up—falsified data—but hey, 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. But hey, the fact that so many people tried it should count for something. Yes, 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 still work in people. The only way to know for sure is to put it to the test: a 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 the patients died rapidly. “No substantive benefit was observed in terms of cure, improvement, or even stabilization of cancer, [nor] improvement of symptoms, [nor] extension of life span.” Only adverse effects of “cyanide toxicity.” Conclusion: “Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment.”

The books, then, were closed on it for more than 30 years. Laetrile doesn’t work— “unsafe and ineffective.” “No sound evidence that laetrile is effective as an anticancer agent.” So, “[t]he label ‘unproven’ cancer remedy may be too generous at this point; it is time to vehemently assert that laetrile cancer therapy has been ‘disproven.’”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: RitaE via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

What about eating apricot seeds directly? In case you missed the previous video, check out Do Apricot Seeds Work as an Alternative Cancer Cure?

Mayo was also the one that tested IV vitamin C:

And here’s when Gerson Therapy was put to the test:

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