Frequently Asked Questions - Second Opinion, a Documentary by Eric Merola - Second Opinion, a Documentary by Eric Merola
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Frequently Asked Questions

May 30, 2014: Listen to a NPR/PBS affiliate radio interview with Ralph W. Moss, PhD discussing this project here

1. Is this documentary advocating or promoting the use of Laetrile for cancer patients?

Absolutely not. The purpose of this documentary is to tell the story of a series of events that occurred at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the 1970’s. Second Opinion simply tells the story of a series of events that surrounded the laboratory testing of Laetrile, and how the results of those tests were covered-up by Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

To date, the medical establishment has never made an effort to properly test Laetrile/Amygdalin in human beings within a randomized clinical trial. Therefore, there has been no evidence collected within the confines of what the scientific community considers as “proof” of Laetrile’s safety or efficacy. The jury is still out on the question of whether or not Laetrile is an effective cancer therapy in human beings.

This documentary simply tells the story of how Laetrile began to test positively within the USA’s leading Cancer Center at the time—and how the medical establishment dealt with deciding to cover up these results—and how a small group of people, lead by Ralph W. Moss, attempted to leak the truth of these studies to the American people using an underground group they called “Second Opinion”.

*It is highly recommended to watch all of the “DVD Chapter Extras” to get a more complete picture of this story.

2. Human clinical trials were conducted in the early 1980's, they were negative, so why is this story so important?

The human clinical trials conducted in the early 1980’s were done out of a need to “prove” to the public that Laetrile lacks in efficacy. The person in charge of those studies was Dr. Charles Moertel, the nation’s leading opponent to Laetrile at the time.

As explained in “Chapter 4” of the “DVD Extras” of this project, the human clinical trials conducted were not designed based upon standard protocol by designing the human trials around the previous successful animal studies, which showed that Laetrile prevented cancer, stopped it’s ability to spread, and relieved pain. Instead, they chose patients who had exhausted all previous forms of therapy, and gave them Laetrile. The average survival time for these patients in the Laetrile studies was only 4.8 months.

They also did not conduct a randomized trial, instead they conducted a non-randomized Phase II study, with no basis for comparison to see how Laetrile fared against chemotherapy and/or radiation. Given that chemotherapy and radiation were unable to help these patients, it would be highly unlikely that Laetrile would have had any positive effect, since Laetrile was only proven in lab studies to prevent cancer and keep it from spreading, when administered in the early stages of cancer. Therefore, it would make sense that Laetrile would be ineffective within a group of late stage cancer patients.

There was much controversy surrounding these human studies, with many Laetrile proponents claiming that genuine “laetrile/amygdalin” wasn’t used in the studies, or that the patients weren’t properly being administered the substance. Despite many previous promises that both Laetrile proponents and opponents would be allowed to participate in running these studies to insure transparency, this was denied by the Laetrile opponents once the trials began.

As of 2014, all of the internal documents related to these studies have not been released to the public archives, leading to further suspicion of foul play. Numerous attempts have been made to have these files released to the public. So far, all requests have been denied.

For a longer explanation of the human clinical trials, watch “Chapter 4” from the “DVD and Blu-ray Extras”:

“The FDA, and The National Cancer Society didn’t trust Sloan-Kettering to host these clinical trials, there was too much of a chance they would turn out positive, so they got the nation’s leading Laetrile opponent to host the human trials. These trials were set up to fail.” – Ralph W. Moss, PhD

3. Other lab studies found Laetrile to be negative, why did Sloan-Kettering's tests turn out positive?

When the Laetrile studies began in the early 1970’s, all the initial tests were done based on human tumors surgically implanted into lab mice. All of these tests concluded that Laetrile was negative in efficacy. However, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, being a pioneer in using mice to test potential anti-cancer agents, began testing Laetrile in mice that were bred to have their cancer develop spontaneously (as all human cancers develop). In all of the “Spontaneous Cancer Mice” studies conducted by Dr. Sugiura, Dr. Old, and others within Sloan-Kettering found that Laetrile prevented cancer and stopped it from spreading 80% of the time when compared to the “control group” that received only saline solution.

Laetrile proponents claim that Laetrile’s mechanism of action is a reaction from enzymes that occur when it comes into contact with cancer cells. While this theory on Laetrile’s mechanism of action is debated, it suggests that there might be something to this theory because when cancer develops “spontaneously” it is more likely to contain all the natural enzymes within a body with cancer, vs. having a human tumor forcibly implanted into the body.

Laetrile only worked in the mice where their cancer developed spontaneously and naturally. It did not work in those mice where human tumors were surgically implanted.

For a very in-depth explanation of this issue, read Ralph Moss’ new book and companion to this documentary, “Doctored Results”. 

4. What is the difference between Laetrile, Amygdalin, and B17?

Please watch “Chapter 8” of the “DVD Extras” for a longer explanation of this question. 

All “Laetrile” that has been used worldwide as a cancer therapy, and all Laetrile used in the Sloan-Kettering tests hasn’t been “Laetrile” at all, it is “Amygdalin”. Amygdalin is the generic name for a simple extract of apricot pits.

It is debatable whether “real” Laetrile has ever been made or used. “Laetrile”, coined and invented by Dr. Ernst Krebs, is the alleged synthesized proprietary chemical that is similar to the chemical make-up of “Amygdalin.”

B17 is a name coined by Dr. Ernst Krebs to be synonymous with Laetrile/Amygdalin. There is no formal registration of “B17” as a vitamin, and no evidence that there is a human dietary deficiency of Laetrile that causes cancer. (Lack of Vitamin C is guaranteed to cause scurvy, but there is no evidence to suggest that a lack of Laetrile/Amygdalin will guarantee to cause cancer). B17 simply became synonymous with Laetrile/Amygdalin.

5. Everyone says Laetrile contains cyanide and is highly toxic, is it?

Please watch “Chapter 7, Laetrile as the Bogeyman” in the “DVD Extras” for a longer explanation. 

It is not the goal of this project to advocate the use of Laetrile. There have not been any studies properly conducted to test the toxicity of Laetrile in human beings. All we can do is look at historical precedence.

In Sloan-Kettering’s mouse studies it was established by Dr. Sugiura and all the leaders of the Center that Laetrile is non-toxic. This was also documented by the minutes obtained via FOIA from the 1974 and 1975 Laetrile meetings in Washington, DC with Sloan-Kettering’s leaders, The Food and Drug Administration, and The National Cancer institute.

Sloan-Kettering found that when Laetrile was injected intravenously it was non-toxic. However, toxic levels could be detected when Laetrile was administered orally. The theory behind this is due to the enzymatic action within cancer and the Laetrile substance. When injected into the bloodstream Laetrile performed better, but when taken orally, the enzymes that can unlock the Laetrile molecule releasing cyanide are present in the digestive track.

Laetrile does not contain cyanide, as table salt does not contain chlorine. Cyanide is released by laetrile under the right enzymatic conditions, as chlorine gas can be released from table salt under the right conditions. It is a very common misstatement for people to say “Laetrile contains cyanide”. Cyanide must be liberated from Laetrile. It is not contained within Laetrile.

At the height of the Laetrile movement in the 1970’s, while it remained unproven that Laetrile was effective, it was established that Laetrile wasn’t harmful, causing many to say, “Even if Laetrile will not help me, it will not hurt me like chemotherapy and radiation.” So, attacking Laetrile largest strength, the medical establishment began to rebrand Laetrile as a “toxic” drug.

In 1978, The Journal Of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study where they anesthetized a group of dogs, gave them medication to prevent them from regurgitating, released cynaide from the Laetrile into a slurry, and force fed the dogs high doses of this slurried cyanide-filled substance using feeding tubes, killing the dogs. This study was a stunt to try to prove that “Laetrile will kill you.”

Also, the US government placed 40,000 “Laetrile Warning Posters” in post offices and pharmacies across the USA warning people that Laetrile is “Useless and Dangerous.” On the poster it listed 17 deaths attributable to Laetrile. However, under closer scrutiny, only one death, that of an infant child, who accidentally ate many Laetrile tablets could be verified as an actual Laetrile death.

Please watch “Chapter 7, Laetrile as the Bogeyman” in the “DVD Extras” for a longer explanation of this subject:

“Once Laetrile began to gain traction, even if found to be ineffective, everyone agreed that it was non-toxic. So the establishment re-branded Laetrile as a toxic drug to try to sway the public from seeking it.” – Ralph W. Moss, PhD

6. What is Ralph W. Moss, PhD doing today?

Watch “Chapter 10, Out of the Asylum” from the “DVD Extras” for a longer explanation: Ralph W. Moss, PhD talks about co-founding the formation of the USA’s National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) “Office of Alternative Medicine”, where Ralph served on the advisory board for 10 years.

Ralph has written many books on cancer therapy and the business of cancer therapy. He currently travels the world investigating and writing about all sorts of cancer therapies.

[ Visit Ralph W. Moss’ website ]

7. Is it the intention of this documentary to cast a negative shadow on Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center?

Absolutely not. The Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center remains a leading Cancer Research Center in the United States. What happened at Sloan-Kettering in the 1970’s does not in any way reflect the institution as a whole.

The War On Cancer had just been established, and there was a major shift nation-wide in the aggressive study of new cancer therapies. The testing of Laetrile was essentially forced upon Sloan-Kettering by Benno C. Schmidt, Sr., the head of President Nixon’s Cancer Advisory Council and leading board member of Sloan-Kettering.

Due to the dramatic increase of cancer patients fleeing to Mexico and Germany to obtain Laetrile — coupled with a growing interest from the public into the effectiveness of Laetrile, the War On Cancer by default formally forced the medical establishment to test Laetrile—and since Sloan-Kettering was the USA’s top Cancer Research Center at the time—they were a logical choice.

The heads of Sloan-Kettering likely never expected their own tests (lead by a co-founder of chemotherapy and pioneer of testing new anti-cancer agents in mice, Dr. Kanamtsu Sugiura) to return with positive results.

The heads of Sloan-Kettering were essentially in the wrong place at the wrong time. They all tried their best to “do the right thing” in expanding and sharing their positive Laetrile tests, but a Washington, DC meeting with the USA’s top cancer experts in 1975 prevented them from going any further, and forced them to lie about their own results. Anyone that was interested in protecting the institution and preserving their lucrative positions towed this line.

This cover-up of the Laetrile tests at Sloan-Kettering did not come from those within Sloan-Kettering itself, it came from the highest levels of government, which put pressure on Sloan-Kettering to lie about their results.

This documentary is in no way meant to discourage people from seeking medical services from Sloan-Kettering. This cover-up was simply an unfortunate series of events that occurred at this prestigious American Cancer Research Center over 35 years ago.

8. Is there any credible research being conducted today on Laetrile/amygdalin?

Yes.  Two prestigious German research institutions have been studying laetrile/amygdalin using today’s top technology. They are confirming what MSKCC had found 40 years ago: “Amygdalin Blocks Cancer Growth.” Their work was been published in August and October of 2014 in the respected peer-reviewed science journal PLOS ONE. 

August 2014: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0105590

October 2014: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0110244