Why a Potential New Cancer Treatment Was Covered Up

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kanematsu Sugiura, DSc, was studying 'Laetrile,' a potential new treatment for cancer, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the 1970s. Kanematsu Sugiura, DSc, was studying "Laetrile," a potential new treatment for cancer, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the 1970s. (Kanematsu Sugiura/Merola Productions)

The War On Cancer, launched in the early 1970s, led to an influx of new ideas in fighting the disease. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, America's leading cancer research center at the time, was assigned the task of testing an unconventional therapy called “Laetrile”  to determine if it was a legitimate therapy. Ralph W. Moss was hired as a science writer at Sloan-Kettering in 1974, and one of his first assignments was to write a biography about Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, one of the Center’s leading research scientists and the original co-inventor of chemotherapy. Moss discovered that Dr. Sugiura had been studying “Laetrile” in laboratory mice, with unexpectedly positive results. Moss tells how he worked as a loyal employee at Sloan-Kettering while at the same time helping to anonymously leak information about “Laetrile” to the American public. Moss is the subject of the documentary “Second Opinion,” which opens August 29 at the Cinema Village.


Ralph W. Moss

Comments [13]

Debra Krell from Queens,NY

I am very grateful that I heard this show. I believe in listening to all sides. Leonard, please keep on with the controversial topics that is why I
listen to WNYC and your show.

Oct. 10 2014 03:03 PM

Wow, this is also super fascinating -- the producers of the movie "Second Opinion" included all the documents for all to review and fact-check, including the documents Ralph Moss leaked to the public:

(the good stuff starts on page 22)

For a full list of the documents, here's all of them:

The issue here is simple, no one is saying run out and get Laetrile, as it's never been properly tested, ever, at least not a randomized study. The problem here is the most respected cancer researcher in the world (at this time) found it stopped the spread of cancer and prevented it from occurring entirely, up to 80% of the time in STAGE I & II CANCER, and MSKCC lied about it (under pressure from DC).

Steve McQueen and anyone else at Stage IV cancer not being cured by Laetrile makes perfect sense, as all the pre-clinical data showed that it only worked in Stage I and II, as it prevented it from reaching Stage III and IV, which at the end of the day - is the name of the game anyway. If you can stop it from spreading, you have saved that life.

Aug. 27 2014 11:19 PM

Hm, interesting, it seems the heads of MSKCC tried very hard to convince the head in Washington DC of the fact that Laetrile stopped the spread of cancer 75% of the time, and here is an actual document retrieved via FOIA to prove it.

Aug. 27 2014 11:12 PM

Dan, everything we knew about medicine 1100 years ago was wrong. Seriously, they didn't even know that the heart was a pump or that the lungs transfer oxygen to the blood. Why on earth would they be right ab out this one thing, and science completely wrong? That would be like advocating phlogiston theory instead of the correct theory of combustion, on the basis of mere antiquity.

Aug. 27 2014 07:13 PM
Guy Chapman

I can't believe that Moss is still beatring the bloody smear where this dead horse once lay. I can believe that he has sucked in Eric Merola, propagandist for Texas cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski, to make one of his trademark hagiographies, because Merola is a Truther (he worked on his brother's Zeitgeist movies) and once you believe one conspiracy theory you believe them all.

Laetrile is not the "one true cure" because cancer is not one disease. The only provable, repeatable effect form laetrile treatment is cyanide poisoning. It would be lovely if it worked, and there's absolutely no doubt that if it did it would be in widespread use, because there are som many active in cancer research - charitable foundations, individual scientists, research centres funded by governments of all political shades from Cuba to the US - it is simply not possible that all these people are in on some grand conspiracy to suppress laetrile. It simply doesn't work.

That's not a surprise: a fraction of one percent of all substances that show early promise in the lab, turn out to be usable treatments. There are many reasons for this. Laetrile was at one time the most profitable form of quackery in the US (a dubious honour that probably now goes to chelation therapy for conditions other than acute heavy metal poisoning), fortunately it declined sharply in recent decades.

Seems that Moss and his ilk want to give the zombie corpse one more airing. Sadly, some will be duped and will die that bit poorer ina Mexican clinic as a result.

Aug. 27 2014 07:10 PM

I worked on the clinical trial for Laetrile at MSKCC. Patients had to be off of their chemotherapy for 2 weeks before being able to be on the study. By the time we reviewed the patients applications and got back to them via phone and mail, they had either died or were still on their chemo. I do not remember placing 1 patient on that study. I remember we had to keep our "black books" as they were called, for a very long time for auditing purposes. I have worked at MSK for many many years, and i can say that this was the lowest and saddest time of my career there.

Aug. 27 2014 12:39 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

1. Animal studies always come before human studies, so for Mr. Moss to discount them is ridiculous.

2. I thought the Laetrile myth was dispelled in the '70s. No proven efficacy, so it became a huge joke. Less so after Steve McQueen went to Mexico for Laetrile and died anyway. Laetrile is only espoused by people who want their children to grow up to be snake oil salesmen.

Aug. 27 2014 12:33 PM
Elaine from baltimore

Many years ago a relative of mine had pancreatic cancer. The doctor at Sloane Kettering refused to treat him. We found out later it was because he would have negatively influenced the doctor's statistics.

Aug. 27 2014 12:33 PM
Wayne johnson Ph.D. from Bk

One of the reasons the War on Cancer has been such a abysmal failure is the reliance on millions of laboratory animals. In trying to extrapolate from mice,dogs, or monkeys to human cancer we have gone down blind alley after blind alley.

Aug. 27 2014 12:22 PM
Dan from Inwood

Yeah... I'm not buying it.

Aug. 27 2014 12:20 PM
Marisa Bartolucci from Chelsea

My father was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma in 1994 and given a 50% chance of "remission" with
the chemo and radiation. He opted not to take this route and decided instead on alternative treatments. His oncologist said he would DIE if he did not have chemo/radiation. The alternative doctor he chose, who is renowned in the field of orthomolecular medicine, used a shotgun approach in my Dad's treatment, which meant a raw food/juice diet, Vitamin C infusions, acupuncture AND Laetrile. Within a year the cancer was gone. My Dad is now 95 1/2 and still lives on his own. So I guess he was cured? :-) We twice contacted the original oncologist: right after the cancer was gone; and then when he received a clean bill of health 5 years later. The oncologist never responded. I might add that most of the patients this alternative doctor treated were either stage 4 or terminal. Patients went to him in desperation, several had to be wheeled into his clinic on gurneys. The majority of his patients RECOVERED. I am not saying that they were all cured by Laetrile, but it clearly did not do them harm.

Aug. 27 2014 12:19 PM
Dan from NYC

using apricot seeds and their cyanide content for curing or controlling caner was fully explored and recommended by Avicenna in the Canon of Medicine, 1100 years ago. Kanematsu was neither wrong nor ignorant of the old and efficacious natural cures

Aug. 27 2014 12:19 PM
Bob from Westchester

With this interview and the Robert Kennedy interview last week, seems like quack science and conspiracy theory segments are becoming the WNYC equivalent of Shark Week - anything for ratings during the slow days of August -- except giving out psuedo-science info like this may end up hurting real people.

Aug. 27 2014 12:16 PM

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