David M. Rorvik
David Rorvik

Fellowship Title:

Laetrile (2): The Apricot Agonists

David Rorvik
September 7, 1976

Fellowship Year

Part 2

"By their fruits, ye shall know them."

This is part II of an analysis of the Laetrile controversy. In the first installment (DMR-2) major Laetrile studies were examined and found to yield significant evidence of efficacy in some animal tumor systems. These studies include those conducted by Southern Research Institute, under contract to the National Cancer institute, and Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. This evidence was presented against statements of Frank Rauscher Jr., Director of NCI, and Alexander Schmidt, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, categorically denying any Laetrile efficacy. The roots of the Laetrile controversy were explored and the various postulated actions of the substance discussed. “Whether Laetrile is an efficacious agent in the control of cancer must, in some ways,” I concluded in Part I, “be considered as of only secondary importance in an anfractuous controversy which perhaps, more than any other in the realm of cancer politics, casts serious doubt on the wisdom and integrity of those charged with one of the most pressing missions of our time — the conquest of cancer.” In this installment I turn my attention to the Laetrile agonists, the embattled personnae themselves.


Tijuana: End of the Trail


From San Diego you go to San Ysidro, the U.S. border town where the man who is called “the godfather of the Laetrile movement” keeps a post office box numbered B-17 and the doctor who, more often than anyone else in the world, has injected cancer patients wth something called “Vitamin B-17” banks his allegedly huge and peccant profits. In the company of the “godfather,” at least, you need merely salute the respectful armed guard as you glide wordlessly across the border into what is unmistakably another country.

As you inake your way along the Ensenada Toll Road you survey the almost perceptibly metastasizing sprawl of ramshackle huts in which a lack of plumbing lends a mephitic dimension to this newly unfolding reality. Squeezed between squalor and a ten-foot high fence frothing with barbed wire and illumed under lights so cruel that even the non-cachectics who pass this way reflect horror, you shoot nervously along the edge of Tijuana, climb up out of the dusty pits and alight where the air is clear if not yet cool — in front of the Clinica Cydel, where hopes, stretched taut, according to the “authorities” across the border, are finally snapped — for good.

There to greet you are the brothers Del Rio, led by Jorge, who is the principal owner of the Clinic, the attached pharmacy, motel, restaurant and nearby Laetrile factory. The Del Rios appear as implacable as they are impeccable in their $300 suits, and Jorge, who twinkles with diamonds and rustles with $100 bills, is, after all, you have heard, the man who has “connections” in Mexico almost as formidable as those that Andrew R. L. McNaughton, the “godfather,” maintains throughout the world. Indeed, Jorge is the man who, recalling his own role as a “political investigator”‘ for the Mexican government, has reportedly said: “Before the assassinations come the investigations.”

McNaughton and Jorge Del Rio greet one another with the rapport of two international adventurers. “If it’s easy,” Jorge has said of McNaughton, “Andy’s not interested. He finds ways to make things difficult, to set up challenges. He’s a very dangerous man. Andy and I, we are like two rattlesnakes.”

None of the above is made-up. It is all “true,” at least in the sense that, say, the New York Times or Time Magazine defines “truth.” But in tone, and in terms of the mood it sets and the disposition it engenders in the reader, it is utterly false. What I have written is, in case you missed it, satire. Time and again, writers, most of whom never step foot inside the Mexican Laetrile clinics, seek to transpose the storied “seediness” of Tijuana to the clinics themselves, to imagine, since Andrew McNaughton has (proudly) admitted to “running guns” for revolutionaries and accepting money from an alleged Mafioso, that he must be, as Time recently clucked, one hell of a “shadowy” figure. By the same token, those who are opposed to Laetrile have been quick to seize upon such comments as those attributed to Jorge Del Rio above. I have no doubt that, in the course of an all-night episode of crapulous conviviality with a disingenuous female Canadian reporter, Jorge said those things — and more. So what? From such comments it is risky at best to extrapolate quackery and fraud, as did the reporter in question.

My own investigation of the Del Rios reveals them to be highly respected — and, yes, highly successful — businessmen in Mexico. They are engaged in a number of legitimate businesses (such as the manufacture of fire-fighting equipment) and were secure well before they decided to take on themselves the largely thankless task of operating a Laetrile clinic.

Death and Danger


So here we are on the outskirts of Tijuana — and here’s the man who will show me the ropes, prior to giving me the run of the place: Andrew McNaughton. And since so much of the Laetrile controversy revolves around not how good Laetrile might be but how bad Andrew McNaughton must be, a probing look seems to be in order.

McNaughton was identified in an error-ridden article written by Everett R. Holles (New York Times, June 1) as “a British entrepreneur accused of directing the multi-million dollar (Laetrile) smuggling conspiracy” which, real or imagined, occasioned 19 Federal grand jury indictments in San Diego in late May, with the trial tentatively scheduled to get underway in December. “Reports that $130,000 of Mafia money was funneled into the Laetrile operation at one time were confirmed by the accused British leader of the smuggling ring, Andrew R. L. McNaughton, who has been involved with the controversial drug for years.”

The main thrust of the Holles’ article, it should be pointed out, is to, first, smear the backers of Laetrile by linking them with the minority of John Birch Society members who are active in one of the pro-Laetrile organizations. Then he extends his guilt-by-association technique to embrace the Mafia, to which Andrew McNaughton, whose politics, incidentally, are as about as far a remove from those of the Birch Society as one can get, has, alone, been tenuously linked. What is most reprehensible about the Times article is the definite implication that it was through San Diego stringer HoIles’ enterprise that this heinous bit of information came to light and that, when confronted, McNaughton could do nothing other than confirm the awful story.

The facts reveal at once McNaughton’s innocence and his hubris: It was he who, years ago, boasted of receiving money from a man alleged to be a capo in the Joe Bonanno Mafia “family,” one “Bayonne Joe” Zicarelli. If McNaughton hadn’t opened his mouth, repeatedly, no one — least of all, I suspect, the Times — would ever have known about his “Mafia connections.” Andrew McNaughton, I sometimes think, is a little like some of the characters Woody Allen portrays — particuIarly the one who proclaims “Death and danger are my various breads and my various butters.” McNaughton enjoys — and, while not always subtly, certainly always sedulously, promotes — his image as an international intriguer. At the same time, after months of investigation, I’ve concluded that he is equally industrious in avoiding anything illegal. Like his close friend and sometime — critic, Dr. Dean Burk, one of the founders of the National Cancer Institute, MIcNaughton delights in playing the devil’s advocate — and sometimes the devil himself.

Thus he could say to the female reporter from Canada who came obviously expecting — and hoping — to find Beelzebub or at least Niccolo Machiavelli (and so, naturally, was not to be disappointed by the pleased and accommodating Mr. McNaughton): “The patient who is suffering from cancer doesn’t care if he gets his Laetrile from an angel or a devil.” Of course, he added to that “so long as it works,” but Marci McDonald (“Cashing in on Cancer,” Maclean’s, January 12, 1976) had her mind made up before she arrived in Tijuana and so, conveniently, left that part out. And McNaughton can chuckle happily when he hears that Jorge Del Rio has called him a “rattlesnake” and “a very dangerous man.” McNaughton hopes, I suspect, that such characterizations aren’t entirely preposterous.

Andrew McNaughton is not a “British entrepreneur.” He’s about as Canadian as they come, albeit he was born in Britain of Canadian parents. He’s lived most of his life in Canada and California and now Mexico. He is a handsome man (“he looks 45, is 60 and oozes an unmistakable aura of authority,” writes Marci McDonald). He is 59 and looks 44. He is of wiry build, in apparent excellent physical condition. His dark beard, hair and moustache are streaked with gray. He speaks quickly and decisively, with a mixture of authority and humor. His words make people want to act, but he seldom, if ever, resorts to hard sell.

McNaughton is the single most important person “behind” Laetrile. It is, he has said, his “crusade.” He’s had others, some of which, perhaps, he was better qualified for by virtue of his heritage and training, for he is the son of Canada’s late national hero, General A. G. L. McNaughton, commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II, permanent delegate to and onetime chairman of the United Nations Security Council, president of the Canadian National Research Council and director of the Canadian Atomic Energy Council. Andrew McNaughton began his formal advanced education with a four-year classical course under the Jesuits at Loyola College, Montreal. Later he pursued electrical engineering at the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario, business administration at Alexander Hamilton Institute and mining and geology at McGill University. A Royal Canadian Air Force pilot from 1939 to 1946, he ultimately became chief test pilot of the RCAF and commanded its Experimental Test and Development Centre. At various times he has served as a mining, business and engineering consultant to businesses throughout the world.

Castro Blows His Cover


After World War II McNaughton founded a company called Norcan, in partnership with a Russian engineer. They converted cheaply procured war surplus items into useful commodities. Among other things they modified box cars and tank cars for use on South American railway lines, trading them, for example, for wheat in Argentina and, by all accounts, making some millions in the process. McNaughton at one time had all the visible trappings of great wealth — estates, yachts, servants, etc.

Also after World War II McNaughton got involved in Israel’s struggle for nationhood. Contrary to some stories which have circulated, however, he was not a private entrepreneur funneling arms to the Israelis. His role as a gun runner was directed by the Canadian Minister of Internal Affairs, and the shipments he would ultimately take to Israel were guarded by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. But such was their confidence in McNaughton that the Israelis banked their money in his personal account. Fast friendships were annealed in the heat of those days — some with individuals who have now risen to positions of considerable power in Israel, a fact which may, as we shall see, have some bearing on Laetrile’s fate worldwide.

In the 1950s, acting as a mining consultant for a firm with interests in Cuba, McNaughton had a chance to see firsthand the oppressive world of Fulgencio Batista, the dictator against whom revolutionaries were at last beginning to stir. Today, hanging on the wall in his office in Tijuana’s Clinica Cydel, McNaughton displays a document signed by Dr. Manuel Urrutia, provisional president of Cuba, authorizing McNaughton “to negotiate for any merchandise, material, equipment or services which are required for furthering the interest of the liberation of Cuba.” In short, McNaughton (who in previous undercover operations had been code-named “Esquimal,” meaning “Man from the North,” was authorized to buy arms and get them to Castro — by whatever means necessary.

McNaughton told Time in 1959: “I got to sympathize with what they were doing. My very good friends were giving their lives for the cause. I joined the movement. It was the least I could do.”

McNaughton underwent a certain metamorphosis. He sold his estates, his cars and boats. It wasn’t precisely a political conversion. The life style he was leading simply ceased to be satisfying. “I had eleven servants working for me,” he recalls, “and one hot summer day like this I was driving into work and I reflected that in reality I was working for my servants, sweltering in the city all day to manage their upkeep. Gradually I sold everything. And I began to put my money into things I believed in.” One of those things, he says, was the Cuban Revolution. Today he says he is broke, but by choice rather than ill-fortune.

Marci McDonald has written that McNaughton’s letter from Dr. Urrutia “might not be quite so remarkable if Andrew McNaughton hadn’t had an almost identical letter from the government of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista at the time.” It is consistent with McDonald’s brand of hatchet-job journalism that there she lets the matter rest, clearly implying — with utter falseness — that McNaughton, mercenary to the end, unscrupulously played one side against the other. I find it difficult to believe that if McDonald had delved this deeply into McNaughton’s background that she could be unaware of the fact that the Castro forces authorized McNaughton to become, if possible, a double agent, acting as the chief buyer for the opposition. This was no niggling request, and the fact that McNaughton succeeded brilliantly is attested to by the fact that he was, after Castro came to power, publicly named an “honorary citizen of Cuba” along with Che Guevera. As a buyer for Batista, McNaughton, at considerable risk, was able not only to inform Castro of the particulars of enemy arm shipments but also, sometimes, to covertly sabotage the Batista shipments and even divert them to Castro.

Humiliation in a Rexall Drugstore


The non-profit McNaughton Foundation was established in Montreal in 1956. Its prospectus at that time states: “The McNaughton Foundation sponsors deserving research which promises breakthroughs in important new areas where sufficient professional acceptance does not yet exist to gain the support of the usual foundations or agencies.” With his cover as a cloak-and-dagger agent blown by his emergence as an honorary citizen of Cuba in 1958, McNaughton turned his full attentions to the fledgling Foundation, and in Ernst Krebs Jr., the “discoverer” of Laetrile, McNaughton found ample ground “where sufficient professional acceptance does not yet exist.”

McNaughton was introduced to biochemist Krebs (see DMR-2 for credentials) in a Rexall drugstore, somewhere in Florida. “For the first tme in my life,” McNaughton recalls, “I listened to somebody talk for more than two hours and in that entire time didn’t understand a word he was saying. I was so humiliated that I followed him back to San Francisco, where he lived, and spent ten days listening to more. The result was that I returned to Montreal with the whole theory of Laetrile in my head, took it all to my friend Professor (N. R.) Bouziane and he evaluated all of it in some depth and said it was worth pursuing.” (Professor Bouziane is an M.D. and Ph.D., director of Research Laboratories, Saint Jeanne D’Arc Hospital, Montreal, former dean of the American Society of Bio-Analysts and professor of clinical pathology at the University of Montreal.)

That was in 1956, and McNaughton and his Foundation have been “pursuing” Laetrile ever since.

Thirty Years of “Crime”


The opponents of Laetrile avow that if Andrew McNaughton hasn’t made money off Laetrile then he almost certainly has come by cash by other suspect means. All of his critics avow that he is today fabulously rich, though none presents any proof. Marci McDonald writes: “In the past 30 years, Andrew McNaughton’s life has spun a tangled and sometimes shadowy web of scandal-charged headlines and international intrigue which has seen his name linked to…multi-million dollar stock swindles…and Mafia mobsters in New Jersey.” The careful reader of Ms. McDonald’s piece may wonder why, after, 30 years of “shadowy intrigue” (i.e., read “crime”) Andrew McNaughton has been convicted of only one misdeed, a conviction in which the imposition of sentence appears now to be in perpetual suspension, owing to some remarkable and illuminating circumstances, shortly to be discussed.

Time now to untangle the web of Andrew McNaughton’s life. First, there’s the matter of that $130,000 contribution from “Bayonne Joe” Zicarelli, the legality of which, incidentally, has never been questioned by anyone. Guilt-by-association appears to be the only “offense.”

When McNaughton decided to support Laetrile research he did everything in his power to interest the establishment agencies in the substance. He also tried to persuade respected doctors to use it on terminal cancer patients. The law concerning such matters was as murky then as it is today, and many doctors were able to use Laetrile in the 50s without harassment. Laetrile did not yet loom as a major threat to anybody’s vested egos or interests.

One doctor who used the substance in humans and published his very promising results in the respected, entirely orthodox journal Experimental Medicine and Surgery, (No. 4, 1962) was the late Dr. John A. Morrone, attending surgeon, Jersey City Medical Center. One of his patients happened to be the sister of Joseph Zicarelli, a woman whose cancer had been declared terminal and who had been given only a few months to live. On Dr. Morrone’s last-ditch Laetrile regimen (with dosages much smaller than those given today) the woman recovered much of her health and lived for six years free of the pain and discomfort she had experienced for so long prior to taking Laetrile.

“I met Mr. Zicarelli for the first time,” McNaughton says, “at a wedding party at the Morrone home. He thanked me effusively for our help, because we were supplying Dr. Morrone with Laetrile in those days, and he said that he would like to help us advance Laetrile research. I thought that was the last we’d hear from him, but a few days later we got a check in the mail for $100,000 from a Mr. Ball in Miami. To this day I don’t know that it came from Mr. Zicarelli, but it seems almost certain that it did. Later there were two more checks totalling $30,000.

“Let’s remember that the Mafia is in the habit of contributing to a lot of things — such as political campaigns. Even a Presidential candidate not long ago got $160,000 that came out of a list of contributors from Jake the Factor, which is a nice romantic Mafia name. And you know, and I know, that the reasons they give to political campaigns are a lot less praiseworthy than the reasons they give to the McNaughton Foundation and the like. Whatever the case, this was Mr. Zicarelli’s gift, not the Mafia’s. If the Mafia were behind Laetrile it would have been legalized years ago.”

Marci McDonald has claimed that the Italian police “named” Andrew McNaughton, along with his old friend Steve Schwartz (co-gun runner in the Israeli days) “for allegedly swindling $17 million from shareholders in connection with Biozymes stock and a much-publicized Laetrile factory scheme in Italy.” Biozymes is a now defunct company McNaughton started in the days when he “naively,” as he puts it, believed Laetrile would be legalized in Canada. Its purpose was to manufacture and sell Laetrile.

The untruth of the Italian swindle allegations came clear when McNaughton was held in a San Diego jail not long ago on charges (more later) which were subsequently dropped. It appears that since U.S. Customs and the FDA did not have evidence sufficient to prosecute McNaughton they hoped someone else would. So checking around, somebody in authority heard about the Italian “swindle” and contacted the Italian authorities only to be disappointed by the news that McNaughton is not wanted in that country. An independent check with Interpol, the European international police force, confirms this.

Pan American Mines and the “Mormon Mafia”


But the best is yet to come. The McDonald article, which is a compendium of every charge ever levelled against Andrew McNaughton, triumphantly saves “one of the flashiest market swindles in Canadian history” for last, perhaps sensing that here, at least, she needn’t convolute the facts to support her thesis which is, apparently, that Andrew McNaughton is the most consummately crafty man on the face of the earth. For here is an actual conviction in a court of law: Andrew McNaughton found guilty on one of six charges of fraud, fined $25,000 and sentenced to a year in jail. This is the story of the Pan American Mines “caper,” involving Howard Hughes and what McNaughton calls Hughes’ “Mormon Mafia.” Five million dollars evaporated in the course of the “caper.”

As McNaughton recalls it, he and his second wife (who died in 1970) suddenly found themselves being wooed by the “Morman Mafia wing of the Hughes organization.” They were invited to Las Vegas on numerous occasions. “We would have a suite at one of the big hotels paid for by Hughes,” he remembers, “and when we wanted to see a show they would get the best table for us right in the center and all the tables and people in front of us would be swept aside.” McNaughton says he assumed the Hughes people had suddenly taken an interest in Laetrile, but it soon became apparent that they were after something else. They wanted McNaughton to serve as a consultant and, as it turned out, something more.

Over the years, it seemed, Hughes had spent millions buying up mining claims all over the world and particularly throughout Pan America. Some of Hughes’ associates were unhappy about the fact that those claims were just sitting there, gathering dust. They told McNaughton they had gone to Hughes and had struck a deal whereby they would develop the claims that turned out to be worthwhile in a corporation of their own making. They would split the profts with Hughes. The rub was, McNaughton was told, they were having trouble with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, owing to the “tangled web” of their affairs. No illegality was implied; there was, they said, just too much red tape and a certain amount of harassment.

McNaughton suggested, he now laments, that the climate in Canada would be more conducive to a new mining corporation. “Then, in the biggest mistake of my life,” he continues, “I introduced them to the Canadian financial community and, in effect, sponsored them. The Pan American Mines Co. was listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange. The Minister of Finance welcomed them to Canada. Then after the stock had been sold to the public, it turned out that the people who had sold it hadn’t paid for the properties. They were expecting to use the money they made from the stock sales to pay for it, and when that news got out — and it was news to me, too — the market dropped from $11 a share to 11 cents. I was the engineering consultant and had nothing to do with the finances. We had Howard Hughes’ assistant in Canada arrested for signing a fraudulent prospectus.”

That arrest was “cancelled,” McNaughton charges, when the government prosecutor was “properly soothed.” Three people, he adds, were left holding the bag. One of them was Andrew McNaughton, who had brought the Hughes people to Canada in the first place. The other two “stock manipulators” pleaded guilty but apparently convinced the judge that they, too, had been duped by the Hughes people and so were given jail sentences of only one day and fined $10,000. McNaughton was offered a similar “deal” but refused to plead guilty and so had to stand trial, which ended in a conviction with one year in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Deep Throat Saves the Day: McNaughton Goes Free


In the Quebec Court of Appeal, in February of this year, the sentence was reduced to one day in jail and a $10,000 fine. The judge issued a statement saying McNaughton had been discriminated against in the conviction because those against whom there was greater evidence of guilt had been given lighter sentences. The Montreal Star of February 14, quoted the appeals judge: “As soon as he (McNaughton) heard the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) had a warrant of arrest against him, he quickly returned to Montreal and turned himself in…He did not seek to remain outside the country to avoid facing the charges against him. We cannot reproach him fighting the accusation and forcing authorities to bring him to trial. It seems, on the contrary, he felt he had not committed any criminal act.” The judge noted also that McNaughton had no previous criminal record.

Now, in the latest twist to this affair, the Canadian Minister of Justice has been asked to set aside the conviction altogether — on grounds that evidence long in the hands of the Crown prosecutor sufficient to prove McNaughton’s innocence was willfully suppressed. This information was leaked to McNaughton by someone inside the prosecutor’s office. Imposition of sentence has been delayed pending further investigation. It appears almost certain that the sentence will never be imposed — but McNaughton seeks to have the conviction expunged entirely. That, he says, can only be achieved at the expense of the prosecutor.

There are still some odds and ends that need to be examined. Marci McDonald has written that McNaughton’s beach house — which he says cost him $15,000 — is really worth $50,000 to $100,000. McNaughton, however, has papers showing that he did pay $15,000 for the house several years ago. Since that time a new highway has made the beach near his home accessible. Several people have built expensive homes in the area. Inflation has set in. The house is now worth about $35,000.

Then there’s the patent that Ms. McDonald says McNaughton holds — with Krebs -a patent by which both, she implies, stand to profit enormously from Laetrile. She says this patent gives McNaughton and Krebs “the legal rights to Laetrile.” This is utter guano and is further proof of McDonald’s accomplished disregard for the facts. Laetrile, a substance freely obtainable by one and all from apricot kernels and several hundred other natural sources, is entirely in the public domain and is unpatentable. This, as I pointed out in DMR-2, is the principal reason why none of the large drug companies is interested in investing the estimated $15 million needed to win approval of a new drug in the United States today. The fact that the nonprofit McNaughton Foundation set out to do just that, only to have its IND revoked after it had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and was prepared to spend more (see DMR-2), is, I submit, evidence not of conspiratorial greed but of extreme altruism bordering on softheadedness.

The only patent related to Laetrile that McNaughton holds with Krebs is one for the lyophilization — freeze drying — of the product. But lyophilization is no longer used or necessary in the manufacture of Laetrile — and McNaughton and Krebs were the first to declare this to be the case, rendering their own patent worthless.

Handcuffed to a Heroin Addict


Marci McDonald also brings up the defatted-apricot-kernels caper. This is surely one of the most outlandish stories in recent “criminal” history. On July 29, 1975, McNaughton took three-fourths of an ounce of defatted apricot kernels across the border from Mexico to the U.S. It was his intention to take the kernels to a laboratory in Los Angeles and have them analyzed for their amygdalin content. He did not declare them at the border “partly because I didn’t think of it and partly because if I had thought of it I wouldn’t have declared them anyway. They were California kernels going back into California.”

He was taken to the interrogation room, stripped, searched and all his belongings scrutinized. The kernels were found, his car was seized. He was arrested and immediately handcuffed to “a very charming guy who had just been accused of trying to smuggle two kilos of heroin. He was having a tough time,” he says of the alleged heroin smuggler. “He was sweating like hell. I knew that he was in bad shape because when we were stripped I saw that he had some big scars and I found out he had only one lung. So later when he was sweating and the judge we were taken before wanted to know why, I stood up and volunteered to be his attorney and said, ‘Your honor, he has only one lung and has the flu, so we’d better get him out of here as fast as we can and to the hospital.’ So the judge released him on his own recognizance, and I was held on $50,000 bail — which was later reduced to $10,000 and then to $6,000 and finally to $100. It was a wonderful time, and I enjoyed every minute of it,” he says of his eight days in jail.

He was scheduled to come to trial five months later — during which time his enemies made much of the fact that he had been arrested for smuggling. On January 12, while McNaughton was enroute to stand trial, the prosecutor appeared in court to announce that the government had insufficient evidence to prosecute and that all charges were therefore being dropped. There were no apologies or further explanations. McNaughton didn’t get his car back until months later. And then, he claims, it was “wrecked” by those who had “inspected” it.

The McNaughton Foundation Advisory Board


McNaughton has found it convenient to move his Foundation a number of times. He left Montreal for California some years ago when it became apparent that the Canadian government wasn’t ready for legal Laetrile. In California he launched an all-out drive to win approval of the substance through normal channels (see DMR-2). At the same time, he took Laetrile’s case to a number of overseas countries and can take considerable credit for the fact that the substance is now used without legal harassment in some 24 nations. He helped set up Laetrile factories in Germany, Spain, Monte Carlo and Switzerland, as well as Mexico. All of these factories continue to operate today.

In 1971, deeply disappointed over the FDA’s revocation of the Laetrile IND, McNaughton moved to Tijuana where thousands of cancer victims were already seeking relief through the clinic of Dr. Ernesto Contreras. There he has helped secure the legalization of Laetrile in Mexico and has assisted in the establishment of a second major Laetrile clinic and factory — the one operated and owned by the Del Rio brothers.

McNaughton has always been an internationalist — with lines out to the scientific communities of a great many countries. The Advisory Board of the McNaughton Foundation reflects this. Included are Professor Bouziane, Dr. Burk, Dr. Charles Gurchot (one of the elders of the Laetrile movement and one of its keenest minds, Dr. Gurchot taught biochemistry and pharmacology at the Cornell Medical School and the University of California Medical School; he has long believed in the efficacy of Laetrile, even while differing substantially with another board member, Ernst Krebs Jr., over its biochemical action), Dr. James D. Hamilton (Ph.D., M.D., Departments of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth and Catherine Booth Hospitals, Montreal, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Dr. Mannuel D. Navarro (M.D., professor of biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Santo Tomas, the Philippines), Dr. Hans A. Nieper (former head of the Aschaffenburg Hospital Laboratory, now director of the Silbersee Clinic in Hanover, West Germany), Dr. Chauncey Leake (professor and founder of the Department of Pharmacology, University of California Medical School, San Francisco, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, presently professor of history and philosophy of medicine at the University of California), Dr. Fedor Pomashov (professor of surgery, Lumumba University of Peoples Friendship, Moscow), Dr. F. Trinus (deputy chairman of the Research Council of the Ukraine and professor of pharmacology), R. W. Howe (consulting engineer, member of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy), R. T. Hewitt (executive director of the Royal Society of Medicine, London), Professor Manfred Von Ardenne (president, Manfred Von Ardenne Research Institute, Dresden, East Germany, medical physicist and a principal developer of the Soviet atomic bomb).

An Israeli Doctor’s Assessment of Time Magazine


McNaughton recently succeeded in persuading authorities in Israel to send two well-qualified M.D.s to Tijuana to investigate the Laetrile clinics there firsthand. That he was able to bring this off is owing in part to those friendships he made while procuring arms for Israel years ago. One of his bosses in those days has now risen to one of the top defense posts in Israel; another is head of Israel’s Aircraft Industries and McNaughton’s old friend Steve Schwartz, last seen in the Pan American Mines imbroglio, has surfaced once again as an operative for the Israelis. After listening for years to McNaughton expound on the virtues of Laetrile and having examined some of the data coming out of Mexico, Al Schwimmer, general director of the Israeli Aircraft Industries, recently recommended that Laetrile be investigated.

Chosen for this task were Dr. Myron K. Issahary, prominent surgeon and urologist and, though he is loathe to discuss it, a national hero in Israel. (He rose to the rank of Colonel in the Israeli army through seven invasions, was wounded in action, signed the death warrants of some famous Nazis and so on.) Long affiliated with the famous Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv, Dr. Issahary is today the chief surgeon of Israeli Aircraft Industries, which is a part of the Ministry of Defense and is engaged in the production of aircraft and armaments. Some 40,000 persons come under Dr. Issahary’s potential care.

The surgeon is as soft-spoken, modest and circumspect as his young colleague on the mission to Tijuana, Dr. David Rubin, is blunt, outspoken and aggressive. Dr. Rubin is a cancer specialist at the well-known Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. In Dr. Issahary’s words, “Dr. Rubin has a multi-colored background. He came from an Orthodox family and was to be a rabbi. However, he doubted God’s wisdom and was kicked out of the family home. He went to a kibbutz, spent several years there, was kicked out again and went on to study physics. In the Army he became a major. Now he is a surgeon and an oncologist.”

I recently had the opportunity to meet both of these men in Los Angeles, just after they had spent several weeks at the Tijuana clinics. Neither man had more than superficial knowledge of Laetrile before being assigned the unusual mission: go to Mexico, check out the clinics, see if Laetrile has anything to offer, come back and make recommendations as to whether Israeli authorities should get involved. Both were well aware that the American Cancer Society has consistently decried Laetrile as “quackery” and that the National Cancer Institute has declared it “worthless.”

Dr. Issahary, in his accented, searching and ultimately excellent English, recounted his arrival in the United States, enroute to Tijuana. “The first thing I did was pick up a copy of Time magazine. I read about the crackdown on Laetrile in San Diego and I was shocked. All my doubts were reinforced. I was skeptical to begin with. I thought I might cancel.” McNaughton, he said, was portrayed in the article like a mobster. Dr. Contreras was made to look like a greedy opportunist. The seediness of Tijuana was heavily emphasized. (I discussed this article in DMR-3, deploring its uniformed bias and multiple inaccuracies.)

I asked Dr. Issahary what he thought of the Time article now that he had spent several weeks in Tijuana investigating Laetrile for himself.

He appeared pained as he searched for the right words. Hs hands groped before him as if to seize something. Then he said, very quietly: “I think it was a felony.”

Dr. Rubin brushes the Time article aside impatiently. “Look,” he says, “there are three things we know absolutely from our visit: 1) Laetrile is not quackery, 2) it is non-toxic, even in very large injected doses and 3) the substance has a definite palliative effect. We can’t say with certainty that it inhibits tumors, but the evidence we have suggests that it does. We must do controlled studies to rule out the possibility that prior therapies had some effect on the tumors that stopped growing.” They doubt that the regressions they saw were caused by “delayed effects” of other therapies because, in their broad experience, such delayed effects rarely, if ever, occur.

Both doctors say they were impressed by the honesty and earnestness of the medical personnel in Tijuana. They say that by no stretch of the imagination could the palliative — pain killing and appetite-restorative — effects of Laetrile be due to a placebo effect. “If it is,” one of them says, “then it is the most powerful placebo in the world and we had all better start using it.” They saw cases in which even the most potent narcotics could no longer quell the pain of advanced cancer. Yet, with Laetrile, the pain was entirely abolished in many cases. Moreover, they saw cachectic (extremely wasted) patients begin to eat again and gain significant amounts of weight beginning immediately after Laetrile injections were initiated. Dr. Issahary adds that he was “struck by the lack of fetor” or extreme odor that characterizes many terminal cancer patients.

Both doctors were permitted to interview patients at will, examine medical records that patients brought with them from the States, conduct laboratory tests of their own on patients of their choosing and so on. There was no question, they note, about the diagnosis in the cases they examined. All had cancer. They obtained the addresses of many of the patients and plan to follow-up on them over a long period of time. In August one of the doctors returned to Tijuana to gather more data and, at this writing (early September), it is reported that the two doctors have already recommended extensive testing of Laetrile in Israel. The tests will include, I am told, clinical use of the substance.

Dr. Navarro, another man who impressed me with his quiet dignity, ingenuity and unassuming ways, was also visiting Tijuana when I was there, as was a young Australian physician who has recently begun using Laetrile, with very promising results, he says, in his Australian practice. McNaughton hopes soon to have some Canadian physicians call on the clinics and has repeatedly expressed interest in having investigators from the United States visit the clinics. “We will hold nothing back,” McNaughton promises. “They will have a free hand.” So far, however, there have been no U.S. takers. Just plenty of decriers.

Dr. Soto’s “Heresy”


While in Tijuana I had the opportunity to interview numerous patients, as well as Dr. Contreras, Dr. Mario Soto, medical director of Clinica Cydel, and various members of their staffs. My first meeting was with Dr. Soto, who has been known for years as one of Mexico’s leading orthodox oncologists. His credentials are excellent. Prior to coming to Tijuana, he was chief of the chemotherapy departments of Mexico City’s General Hospital and the government-run 20th of November Hospital in Mexico City. He displays on his office wall a document from the U.S. National Cancer Institute accrediting him as an “independent investigator” qualified to test new anti-cancer drugs for that agency. His study and ultimate endorsement of Laetrile led to its legalization.as a cancer palliative in Mexico.

Despite this, Dr. Soto is a controversial figure within the ranks of the Laetrile advocates. He commits the trophoblastic heresy (DMR-2) of mixing Laetrile with the orthodox “cut-burn-and-poison” therapies. The hard-core Laetrilists argue that the conventional therapies destroy the body’s natural defense mechanisms while Laetrile does not. You can cut out a tumor with surgery or burn it out with radiation or some highly toxic chemotherapy, they say, but you still do not get at cancer’s metabolic roots. Laetrile does, they maintain, and it does it best when it works alone. These arguments have been aired recently in the pages of The Choice, journal of the largest of the pro-Laetrile organizations, proving if nothing else that the advocates of Laetrile are far from being the unified gang of conspirators their enemies would have us believe. Krebs and McNaughton say that Dr. Soto’s very promising early results may not stand the test of time so well as they might if he used Laetrile alone.

Dr. Soto counters with the statement that he is an oncologist; Krebs and McNaughton aren’t. He has seen and worked with a great many cancer patients — using conventional therapies alone, amygdalin alone, and a variety of therapies combined. He believes that his combination therapies, which include Laetrile in doses, incidentally, higher than anyone else has used, are by far the most effective in many cases. Most of Dr. Soto’s patients receive daily injections of from nine to 12 grams of Laetrile along with smaller doses of conventional chemotherapies. He and his colleagues at the newly established Clinica Cydel (including six full-time M.D.s and eight consulting physicians) are now in the process of evaluating their experience with the Clinic’s first 140 patients. Their report will be submitted to Mexican health authorities and then to a medical journal for publication. Some preliminary general highlights of the study:

  • The researchers noted a “remarkable” lack of side effects from various chemotherapeutic agents when accompanied by large doses of Laetrile.
  • “CAP” therapy — 800 mg. of cyclophosphamide, nine grams of Laetrile and 80 mg. of prednisone — showed particularly striking results in cases of malignant lymphoma (tumors of lymphoid tissue, such as Hodgkin’s disease). Dramatic regressions, where they occurred, were effected with speeds never before seen by the researchers when using orthodox chemotherapies alone.
  • Laetrile therapy alone has been found to be more effective than any other agent or combination of agents in arresting the progress of lung cancer.
  • Laetrile alone has also been seen to be effective against colon-rectal cancers.
  • Laetrile alone appears to be least effective against lymphomas and melanomas.

Specific figures on overall response are lacking, since Dr. Soto is loathe to make sweeping pronouncements on the basis of a single year’s experience. “This is a pilot study, establishing baseline data. So far I can only say that I am very encouraged by our results both with amygdalin alone and in combination with other selected therapies.”

The Clinica Cydel, soon to be formally dedicated with, it is rumored, high officials and possibly even the President of Mexico in attendance, is a spacious, modern complex equipped with the world’s most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Its nuclear medicine department is presently being outfitted with the most sophisticated equipment available. The Mexican government has contributed heavily to its development.

Cost of Treatment is Low


Costs at Clinica Cydel, as at the Contreras clinic and hospital, are controlled by the Mexican government. A detailed examination of Clinica Cydel financial books reveals that the first 100 patients to be treated there spent an average of $1,154 each for their average three-week stays. Costs, including all medical care, Laetrile and other therapies, lodging — everything except food — range from $300 to $500 per week. Each patient at the Cydel clinic gets a carpeted two-room suite, with private bath, refrigerator, television, for a price that cannot exceed, by government edict, $22 a day for two people and $20 a day single. The government has ordered that injectable Laetrile shall not exceed $3 a gram and 80 cents a 500-milligram tablet. Clinica Cydel, because it is new and has many expenses to pay off, charges $8 a three-gram vial of injectable Laetrile, and the older, better established Contreras clinic charges $6 a three-gram vial. Meanwhile, it is not unusual to spend $300 or even $500 a day in some major U.S. cancer centers.

At the Contreras clinic (an impressive array embracing a staff of 16 M.D.s, a full-scale hospital and a very attractive complex of housing units for ambulatory patients), the charges for the detailed initial consultation is a stunning $12. The second consultation costs $7. Costs of hospital beds have risen only $5 in the past two years and are now $35 for semi-private beds and $40 for private beds — about one-third U.S. prices.

Yet Dr. Ernesto Contreras has been accused of “profiteering.” The San Diego grand jury indictments of last May allege that he deposited $2 million in San Ysidro bank accounts between January 1973 and July 1975. At first blush that looks like an awful lot of money. But consider: what the indictments didn’t make clear is the fact that this money represents the gross income of Dr. Contreras’ entire operation, encompassing clinic, hospital, restaurant, motel and housing complex, over a two-and-a-half-year period. Out of that gross he had to pay salaries, taxes, maintenance, supplies. Many of the doctors on his staff are specialists; he must pay competitive salaries to retain them.

As for the suspicions aroused by the fact that he banks his money outside Mexico there is a simple explanation. Better than 90 percent of Dr. Contreras’ patients are from outside Mexico. Most are from the United States — and they make payments with checks drawn on banks in the United States. These checks clear much more quickly when banked in the U.S. Dr. Contreras is not a stupid man. If he were trying to hide illicit profits it seems highly unlikely that he would deposit his money in an ordinary bank where his records can be, and have been, scrutinized by public officials.

“They accuse us of charging unduly high prices,” Dr. Contreras says angrily; “I wonder how they arrive at that conclusion. Meanwhile my patients, one after another, tell me that they have spent thousands of dollars in the States — often just to get a diagnosis, after which they are told they are hopeless cases, anyway.”

“The FDA and I Speak a Different Language.”


Dr. Contreras is a large, confident man with an enormous smile and an exuberant laugh. He doesn’t mention it, but I learn from other sources that he is a deeply religious man who has installed a chapel in his cancer complex. A short distance from the clinic, which is constantly being enlarged to accommodate the ever-growing number of patients who come south for Laetrile, is a large edifice in the making — a new church which Dr. Contreras is contributing to the community. Dr. Contrerasis, I learn still later, a practicing Methodist minister.

He is also, of course, an M.D., one who has served as a professor of histology and pathology at the Mexican Army Medical School and as chief pathologist at the Army Hospital in Mexico City. He did post-graduate work at Harvard’s Children’s Hospital in Boston. He has been treating patients with Laetrile since 1963 when a woman insisted that he try it on her. Since she had been declared “terminal” by doctors in the United States and had such faith in the substance, he agreed to try it when he had satisfied himself that it is non-toxic. To his amazement the woman underwent a remarkable, and seemingly complete recovery. Dr. Contreras has been administering Laetrile, with associated nutritional therapies, ever since.

To the San Diego charges that he was part of an international, multi-million-dollar smuggling ring, he answers: “I have nothing to do with smuggling. It is true that I sell Laetrile to my patients here in Mexico, where it is legal. Whatever they do with it after they take it from here is beyond my control. I have no doubt that some patients have purchased more than they needed for themselves and that they resold it in the States to other patients. That we are trying to control by prescribing not more than a three-month supply per individual. It is sad, of course, because many patients cannot come back every three months.” The implication seems to be that he has been obliged to institute this three-month restriction due to pressure, perhaps from the United States.

“The main point is,” he continues, “we — the FDA and I — speak a different language. They speak legal jargon. I speak from a human point of view. If they understood the disservice they are doing humanity there would be no problem. Of course, I agree that amygdalin cannot be put into anybody’s hands. It must be reserved for the cancer specialist who understands the full concept of the disease.”

The Contreras Results


Dr. Contreras and his associates are, like Dr. Soto, preparing an analysis of their results to date. But since Dr. Contreras’ clinical experience with Laetrile goes back to 1963, his report will be far less preliminary than that of the Clinica Cydel doctors. While reserving the specifics for scientific publication, Dr. Contreras is willing to discuss his results to date in a general way. The data that is being readied for publication will be based upon some 5,000 case histories in which it was possible to provide adequate follow-up. All of these 5,000 cases were treated with amygdalin and a dietary regimen that eschews most meats and emphasizes raw fruits and vegetables. The study is broken into two time periods — July 1963 to December 1967 and January 1968 through December 1973 — in order to take into account changing treatment modalities such as increased Laetrile dosages.

“The complete remission curve,” Dr. Contreras says, “is, of course, very low, only around four percent. But we are very strict in our definition of complete remission. There must be 100 percent regression of tumor masses. For partial remission wexequire that the tumors regress by at least 25 percent. In these cases there is some tumor left but the case stabilizes and the patient lives a practically normal life on maintenance doses of Laetrile until death. The overall compounded response, including subjective, objective, complete remission, partial remission, was in the first period (of time) 63.4 percent and in the second period it improved by about three percent, so that it is now close to 67 percent.

“In the second time period, which includes more than 4,000 of the 5,000 patients, we are getting a partial objective response of 40 percent — that is, 40 percent are getting tumor regressions of 25 percent or more, all histologically confirmed.” A 40 percent partial objective response, as defined above, is, by any standard, remarkable, the more so when it is claimed that this response appears now to hold true for the clinic’s entire patient influx, not merely for a selected sample.

Dr. Contreras says he has gone to pains to assess his. patients’ previous medical histories. “We graphically present the various percentages of patients who have, prior to coming here, had the different chemotherapies, surgery, radiation and so on. We cannot say for sure to what extent those therapies might have affected the outcome. But we were always careful to ascertain that the disease was active and not in remission when the patients came here. In almost all cases they came because they continued to deteriorate with the orthodox therapies and were often declared terminal after prolonged periods in which they showed no response.” Spontaneous — completely unaided — remissions are widely acknowledged to occur in only one case in 80,000 to 120,000 patients. If 60,000 patients have come through Clinica Del Mar in the past decade as the New York Times reports, then Dr. Contreras should have yet to see his first spontaneous remission. Yet there have been scores of complete remissions at his clinic. One can only conclude that they have not been of the “spontaneous” variety.

“We do not intend in this report,” he cautions, “to make claims — merely to present our data and to say that these are the results that occurred when various cancers were treated with amygdalin. We will suggest an association and leave it to others to draw their own conclusions. It is better to claim too little than too much.”

The study is scheduled for publication in a reputable cancer journal. It will also be distributed to various cancer centers, many of which have already requested copies.

The Patients: “I Can Walk a Mile Now.”


Clinica Del Mar, which is, as its name suggests, located near the sea, a few miles out of Tijuana, has a happy look about it. The patients mill about in the lobby and waiting rooms, comparing notes and exchanging experiences. The place buzzes with excitement — and hope. It is quite unlike any other cancer center I’ve visited. Death, though no stranger to this place, is at least an uncertain and retiring presence here.

I talked with patients at will and found most of them well-informed and not “deceived” by exaggerated claims. I found no one who called Laetrile an out-and-out “cure.” Most patients could tell stories about friends, relatives, acquaintances who had come here before them and had been helped — if not saved, then at least relieved of the pain that orthodox therapies failed to quell, if not cured, then at least given more time to live and a chance to die with some measure of dignity.

The first man I interview is from Topeka, Kansas. His cancer of the prostate was diagnosed in March, 1973. The treatment: castration, followed by administration of female estrogenic hormones. Castration was performed despite the fact that metastases were not yet evident. Diethylstilbestrol (estrogen) was given despite the fact that the best evidence suggests that orchiectomy (castration) combined with estrogen therapy is no more effective than orchiectomy alone (Journal of the American Medical Association 210: 1074, 1969). Prostatic cancer is often associated with extreme pain. Castration, the man from Topeka was told, would at least relieve that. It did — but only for a very short period of time.

“But the hormones,” he recalls, “made my breasts grow until they were bigger than most women’s. I had to wear a bra. And then the backaches started in.” Bone scans in early 1976 showed a dramatic uptake of cancer into the bones of four different areas. “The pain got so bad that nothing would help, not even the strongest injections of Demerol every half hour.”

He consulted a number of cancer specialists and made a trip to M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston. Everywhere the diagnosis was basically the same: hopeless. “In the meantime,” the man says, “I heard about Laetrile through a fellow in Kansas who had a tumor of the colon about the size of a grapefruit. They wanted to operate and give him cobalt, but he decided to come down here instead. The side effects of the standard treatment didn’t exactly appeal to him; I guess he thought he’d rather be dead. The doctors said he didn’t have much chance anyway. After three weeks down here the tumor had shrunk to the size of a marble. Then they cut it out and he’s been on Laetrile ever since. That was five years ago; he’s in good health today. I didn’t expect anything as dramatic but I guessed I didn’t have anything to lose in coming here.

“When I got here I was nearly a stretcher case. I couldn’t even carry an overnight case and could barely walk. I got out of the hospital to come here and was in terrible pain — just like I’d been for weeks. I’ve been here now since Friday and on the second day I felt a lot of relief from the pain I’d had for months. I was losing weight steadily over the past months and just since Friday I’ve gained three pounds. I can walk a mile now. I get daily injections of Laetrile and doses of enzymes and, of course, I stick to the diet they prescribe. That’s an important part of it — the diet.”

What about a placebo effect? Hadn’t I heard about the vets who were using Laetrile, someone in the crowd asked? I had heard, but later I heard more. It seems that an increasing number of vets are using Laetrile in cat and dog cancers. One of these vets, Dr. John Craige of Monterey, California, recently reported on some of his Laetrile results at the annual convention of the American Animal Hospital Association. He observes that the manifest pain and lethargy associated with various feline and canine cancers often recedes dramatically when the animals are fed capsules of ground-up apricot kernels. Apparent remissions, he adds, have also been observed. Initially concerned about potential toxicity, Dr. Craige says he decided to test Laetrile on himself before giving it to his (animal) patients. “I started with one kernel a day and increased it until I was eating 25 to 50 a day. They don’t taste very good, but if there was any toxicity I didn’t notice it.” Dr. Craige says his tests are still tentative but suggests that there is enough evidence to encourage other veterinarians to start experimenting with the substance, if only in apricot-kernel form. So far as he knows, he says, there is nothing illegal about using even the injectable Laetrile in animals, since the California statutes only forbid the use of Laetrile in “persons” suffering from cancer.

“We Patients are the Children…No More.”


The next patient I approach is from San Jose, California. She protests that her case is “not spectacular” and that I ought to talk “to the woman from Las Vegas who has cancer of the stomach. It took six weeks for the doctors in the States just to diagnose her. She’s a tall lady who once weighed 160 pounds and was down to about 100 when she got here. They had to carry her in; she’d been nauseated for weeks and couldn’t keep anything down. I saw her this morning. She has a full lunch every day now and whitefish with fruit and vegetables at night. Hers is the most dramatic recovery I’ve seen since I arrived here. She’s really a new person.”

But what about her own case, “spectacular” or not?

“First they diagnosed a melanoma which, as you know, is usually fatal. Then they discovered it had spread to the pancreas and was under the left arm. I didn’t feel bad yet, but there was no question but that it was going to kill me. Yet they said, well, there’s nothing to do until you feel sick. Come back then. It was like: we’ll treat your symptoms when they appear, but with metastases like these we’re not going to be able to do anything that really matters. I suppose I should be grateful that they didn’t offer to start cutting me up. Still, it didn’t seem right to sit there and wait for it to hit full-force without doing anything to try and stop it.

“My husband and I discussed it and decided to come down here after learning of Laetrile through various people. I was having trouble with my stomach and had regular back pains by the time we got here. And I should tell you that we came despite the fact that our surgeon up there said this is all a hoax. Our internist, who got wind of what we were planning said: ‘I hope you don’t do anything foolish.’ He acted like he felt sorry for us. But what we got was mild compared to what a lot of the patients I’ve talked to say they’ve got from their regular doctors. A lot of the doctors become furious and talk just terrible to them, like they’re the father figure and we patients are the children and are supposed to accept everything papa says. No more, for me.

“Thank goodness our family has been supportive. All the children were for it. Our son is in medical school, and his wife is a nurse, and they said, by all means, go; it can’t hurt and it might very well do some good. They knew I wasn’t going to get any help at home, with my regular doctors. I was in the hospital up there for 16 days and my bill, with everything, was around $4,000 —- just to get a diagnosis!”

The pain that she was experiencing, she says, disappeared five days after starting on Laetrile. She is hopeful that her cancers will recede but says it is too early yet to say. She reports that she had one adverse reaction following an injection of Laetrile shortly after she arrived and began treatment. “I had pains in my legs — and chills. The doctors said this would go away and not come back with other injections. And it hasn’t. I’m very glad I’m here.”

“It Blew Their Minds”


The next patient I collar is a very healthy looking young man who insists I use his name (Wallace Snyder). He is from Flint, Michigan, and was diagnosed as having cancer of the colon in December of 1975. Doctors in Flint, he relates, “found a tumor bigger than your fist.” There was no doubt that the cancer was killing him; he’d lost 43 pounds in a short period of time. The doctors removed the tumor. Then he was put on cobalt therapy for six weeks, during which time three new tumors erupted in the colon area. Treatment persisted — and so did the tumors, which continued to grow. Finally the doctors give up on radiation and suggested more surgery, making it clear, however, that they were no longer hopeful about arresting the cancer.

“No more cutting,” Snyder told them. “I’d been messed up enough. Anyway, I was broke and my wife had heard about Laetrile, which looked promising after we did some research on it. It was also inexpensive. So I said: ‘Why not? What have I got to lose?’ And on my own I started taking two 500 milligram tablets a day. We got it through some friends. I felt the effects almost right away. I started putting on weight from the first week and the pain, which had been worse after the surgery, went away altogether. I kept it up, taking a gram a day, for about four months.

When we went back to the hospital for a checkup and sigmoidoscopy and they couldn’t find anything, no sign of those tumors, it just blew their minds. I had three specialists in there shaking their heads. They’d never seen anything like it. They knew I was on Laetrile, but they didn’t particularly want to talk about it with me. They didn’t argue, though, when I said I was coming down here to continue treatments — for insurance.”

The costs? “Awful cheap compared to what the hospital in Michigan cost and the damage they did to me. It was $7,000 for the doctors and the surgery and my hospitalization. Then there was another $1,000 for the anesthesiologist, and by the time I was done it must have been around $9,000 or more. And everything they did to me made me sicker. I was in terrible pain from the surgery and during the radiation. And as soon as I started taking the Laetrile — just those oral doses — the pain started to go away.”

“I Would Have Come Earlier…


The next patient I talk to (and I am simply grabbing them as they come by or wander around the lobby of the Clinica Del Mar) is another young man; he has lost his right leg to bone cancer. It was amputated in February, 1975. In March of 1976, he says, the cancer was found to have spread to his lungs, despite the amputation of his leg. In April he underwent lung surgery. The doctors then spoke of what they would do next, not if but whenthe cancer reappeared. After the horrors of amputation and lung surgery the young man, now told that the cancer would be back, decided he had had enough.

“I would have come here earlier,” he comments, “but my doctors kept giving me the idea they could help, telling me how much good they were doing me. Now I find they didn’t do me any good at all.”

He has been at the Contreras clinic 11 days; he has good color and does not look underweight. How does he feel? “I feel better all around. I wasn’t in much pain when I came so I can’t compare that. But I know I’ve got a lot more appetite since starting on Laetrile and I’ve been gaining steadily.”

Again, the costs? “A lot cheaper than anything I’ve had before — and more effective, as far as I can tell. The total in the last year and a half in Florida was around $40,000. Three of us came here to Tijuana and for all of us, including our airfares from the east coast, it’s been under $2,800 — and the plane tickets alone account for $1,000 of that or more. I’ve seen a lot of people come in here in wheel chairs and in a few days be up and around, gaining weight, feeling better. I think it’s a pretty good deal.”

Humans Don’t Count?


And so it went, with the other patients I talk to telling very similar stories. But, of course, all of this is “anecdotal,” as the hierophants of orthodoxy will say, busying themselves with their specially bred, carefully programmed rats and mice. I’ve already discussed in detail the mouse-vs.-man controversy (DMR-2), but I am compelled here to reiterate: Surely, if nothing else, the anecdotal data, coming after all from the sources that matter most, are at least enough to constitute the “iota” or “shred” of evidence that Drs. Rauscher and Schmidt say is all that is required for decent men to give Laetrile the clinical tests it deserves. Surely, out of the nearly billion in funding that now goes into the federal “War on Cancer” there is enough loose change to get Drs. Rauscher and Schmidt, or their surrogates, up off their butts and down to Tijuana for a first-hand look at a phenomenon that ought to be of the greatest concern and interest to them.

To treat the “anecdotal” evidence like so much doodly-squat, to ignore Laetrile by hiding behind arbitrary “scientific” protocols and by attending upon obfuscatory and largely irrelevant animal tests, while nearly 400,000 Americans die each year of cancer, is, if not a pecksniffian excursion into the far-reaches of moral turpitude, then at least an act of unconscionable, and perhaps equally irretrievable cowardice.

Sometimes it seems to me that neither cowardice nor corruption can fully explain the Laetrile impasse. Sometimes it seems to me that perhaps Kurt Vonnegut sums it up best when he writes, in Breakfast of Champions: “Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.” But usually I prefer to believe that it is neither as simple — nor as hopeless — as all that.

Note: The Laetrile discussion continues in my next newsletter, which has been completed and will be distributed shortly. It covers Laetrile politics and personalities north of the border.


Short Takes


More Confirmation that Betty Ford is Using “Illegal” Laetrile


Earlier it was reported in this space that some elected U.S. officials claim to “know” that Betty Ford is or has been using Laetrile. One U.S. Representative, called to testify in a Laetrile trial in Southern California, implied that Ford was using the substance. One newspaper account said he “based his comment from his knowledge of the Bethesda Naval Hospital facilties and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.” The idea that Betty Ford might have received Laetrile at Bethesda isn’t terribly preposterous. A Navy doctor of some rank told me not long ago that at one time he was “cleared” to treat the brother of a Cabinet officer with Laetrile at Bethesda. And while I was in Tijuana a patient told me that her doctor — at Clinica Del Mar — confided that Betty Ford was receiving Laetrile for use against her cancer. Dr. Contreras denies that Mrs. Ford “has ever been treated here.” What happens to Laetrile once it crosses the border is not, he says, his business. So there you have neither denal nor confirmation. But I have it from what I consider to be extremely reliable sources that several Secret Service officers interviewed a number of people active in the Laetrile underground at about the time Betty Ford would have been looking desperately about for something more effective than the “proven” cures that leave so many mastectomized women to die. The Secret Service wanted to know: who is the best Laetrile doctor? Where is the best Laetrile clinic? That sort of thing. If Betty Ford is using Laetrile, as the evidence increasingly suggests, I wonder how she can face herself in the morning, being in the center of an insidious double standard: Laetrile is okay for the political elite because we know what we are doing; you lesser mortals can’t use it because you might be deceived by it and deflected from using the American Cancer Society’s “proven” remedies.

Hubert Humphrey, Meanwhile…


HHH has also been said to be using Laetrile. It doesn’t seem unlikely on the basis of what I’ve heard, but the circumstantial evidence isn’t quite as strong as in the case of Betty Ford. If Humphrey is using the stuff he’s at least showing some pangs of conscience for the millions who are, in effect, denied it by officials of the Ford regime. Earlier this year Humphrey sent a letter to the FDA in which he asked that agency to conduct a new hearing on Laetrile “in light of continued favorable comment on its effectiveness by users.”

Sloan-Kettering Prepares to Conclude its Flirtation with Laetrile


The final “blind” study of Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering (advertised in DMR-2) is about over. The results, apparently, will be much as I predicted. Sloan-Kettering’s first — and perhaps last-report on Laetrile will be published sometime this fall, according to C. Chester Stock, SK vice president. The results, he has said, will probably please neither side. “There will be those who say that a mouse is not an appropriate model for something like this to be used in man, and I’ll be agreeing with them.” And for that, at least, three cheers for Dr. Stock — a man who, for some time now, has been stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Duplicity at the Border


The Choice, publication of the Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy, largest of the pro-Laetrile organizations, reports: “U.S. Customs agents have moved to tighten vigilance at the Tijuana, Mexico — San Ysidro, California, border and are not allowing Laetrile over the border even when it is declared or when it has been provided by a doctor’s prescription. In a telephone interview with The Choice, Herbert Fink, director of Customs at San Ysidro, stated July 18 that it is ‘not legal’ — period — for cancer patients, or anyone else, to bring Laetrile into the United States. If it is declared, it will be refused; if it is ‘smuggled,’ and an attempt is made to pass it over the border, it will be seized and cancer patients subjected to ‘penalties,’ he said. The orders, said Fink, emanate from the Food and Drug Administration — despite the fact there is no specific federal law against it. When The Choice pointed to FDA statements to the effect that the federal agency will not harass cancer patients, Fink said: ‘That’s right. They have us do the harassing.”‘

Pat Brown Sr. to the Defense


Pat Brown Sr., former governor of California, is reportedly going to defend Dr. Contreras — and perhaps some of the other Mexicans named in the San Diego Laetrile indictments. This may explain why several patients at the Contreras clinic reported seeing the former governor on the clinic premises. More on this in the next newsletter.

The Swine Flu Scandal


I have already discussed the fact that there is little or no justification for the mass vaccination of Americans against the so-called “swine flu” virus (DMR-3) For a time it looked as though the swine-flu program would remain merely a nightmare dreamed up by Gerald Ford and associates. Now, thanks to the hysteria engendered by the deaths of several American Legion members, the program has become one of the sun-lit terrors of our time.

Listen: In the wake of his criticism of the mass-immunization plan, Dr. Anthony Morris, once the chief vaccine control officer of the Division of Biologics Standards and director of the government’s Slow Latent and Temperate Virus Branch, was fired by FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt and told to be “out of the building by July 16.” Aurora Reich, former director of the DBS Office of Scientific Communications, writing in the Indianapolis Star, reports that Dr. Morris’ office and laboratory was virtually stormed. Papers were locked up, and hundreds of mice and scores of other test animals in which Dr. Morris and his associates had been testing the long-term effects of vaccines were destroyed. A special target, no doubt, were the hundreds of mice that were being used in hypersensitivity experiments. Evidence was accumulating that showed that many and perhaps all flu vaccines can induce hypersensitivity in significant numbers of persons. “Hypersensitivity,” as used here, means that an individual who gets a flu shot and is later exposed to the flu will actually end up with a more severe case of the disease than he would have had he never received the shot. There are many reasons to believe that hypersensitivity is a real threat. Study after study has indicated that flu vaccines are not only largely ineffective but may actually be doing more harm than good. In one study, 54 percent of those immunized against flu got severe cases of the disease during the next epidemic; only 25 percent of the unimmunized got the flu. A 1970 World Health Organization survey showed light incidence of flu in areas where few people were immunized and very heavy incidence in areas where many were immunized. A 1966 study was carried out in the Caroline Islands, where there was no flu epidemic recorded — ever. Apparently believing these people had been neglected, health “authorities” instituted an intensive vaccination program. Five months later the Islanders, hypersensitive to the core, enjoyed their first flu epidemic.

So Dr. Morris, who was trying to warn the public about such things, was summarily thrown out, his papers seized, his lab animals killed, five of his employees transferred to other jobs in the time-proved tactic of divide and conquer. Two other of Dr. Morris’ employees also suffered seizure of their research records and ware told to destroy their vaccine cultures. New locks were installed on all of the doors of Dr. Morris’ laboratory facilities, as if the good doctor might come back in the dead of night and pilfer the place.

Dr. Morris was speaking up in public about the dangers of the flu vaccine, and there is a report — from consumer advocate Ida Honorof (see DMR-3) — that the researcher had evidence that vaccines like the one about to be injected into millions of Americans “enhances” the growth of cancer in some test animals. Schmidt, it is said, felt he had to nip all of this in the bud — and he did so, brutally, via the firing and other actions outlined above. He fired Dr. Morris despite Health, Education and Welfare hearing officer Henry L. Moore’s insistence that sacking would be highly excessive and that Morris’ “insubordination” was “of minimial seriousness.”

Dr. Morris has been a courageous protector of the public well-being. That he should be thus rewarded is an outrage. He has been with DBS since 1940. It was he who led Senator Ribicoff to investigate DBS in the early 1970s — finding that it was essentially a kept agency, doing the bidding of the vaccine manufacturers, suppressing evidence harmful to said manufacturers and so forth. Later Dr. Morris aggressively attempted to follow-up on the effects of flu vaccines, but he was heavily thwarted by his superiors. In early 1975, Dr. Morris filed a grievance with the government — and won. Schmidt, however, overruled the decision of the Grievance Hearing Examiners — and not long after that demanded Morris’ head. (Schmidt, mercifully, has announced that he will himself resign on December 1, 1976, but it is highly unlikely that he would be retained under the Carter presidency, in any event, given Carter’s ptomise to rid the government of incompetents. By almost every assessment, including those issuing from inside the ranks of the FDA, Schmidt is one of the worst commissioners in the agency’s history. The relationship between FDA and drug industry, always tawdry, had become downright pornographic under Schmidt. When a number of current and former FDA employees, fed up with — let us call a spade a spade — the corruption inside the FDA, took their complaints to a Senate committee chaired by Edward M. Kennedy, Schmidt was required by the Secretary of HEW to make a response. Schmidt took 14 months, spent $196,000 of taxpayers’ money and produced a ponderous and very nearly unreadable 906-page tome entitled Commissioner’s Report. The outside committee of experts assigned to review Schmidt’s efforts found the Commissioner failing. “The Panel’s current judgment is that the Commissioner’s investigation did not obtain information essential to resolve significant numbers of allegations. In those chapters examined by panel members and staff, the Commissioner’s Report does not, for example, disprove allegations that the FDA: 1) succumbed to industry pressure, and 2) made discriminatory transfers of personnel.”)

Dr. Morris has appealed his firing to the Civil Service Commission. He wants his job back. The National Committee for Responsible Science (1625 “I” St., N.W., Suite #922, Washington, D.C. 20006) has organized the “J. Anthony Morris Defense Fund.” Contributions are badly needed for this worthy cause.

Pat McGrady Sr. (and Other Responses)


As one who is on the “ten-most-wanted” list of the American Cancer Society, it was heartening to receive “congratulations on a great job” from Pat McGrady Sr., the much-respected science editor of the ACS from 1947 to 1973. McGrady has continued to write about cancer in his “retirement” — this time for the Independent Citizens Research Foundation for the Study of Degenerative Diseases. In a booklet entitled “The New Immunology,” Pat McGrady concludes:

“Despite the vast fortunes poured into its good and bad research, the Establishment is the first to admit that cancer deaths have risen steadily and are still rising, keeping pace with the mounting millions in research support. The Establishment has turned the terror of this ugly disease to its own ends in seeking more and more contributions from a frightened public and appropriations from a concerned Congress. Still, undismayed by the futility of funds dumped into the bottomless barrel of its ‘proven’ methods, it remains adamant in refusing to investigate ‘unproven’ methods. Indeed, it seizes non-toxic drugs from hopelessly advanced patients returning from abroad where they obtained help they could not get at home. Forgetful of the fact that of the few really useful treatments, all, or a almost all, were initiated under the kind of abuse now heaped upon ‘unproven’ remedies, the Establishment may be denying help for tomorrow’s cancer patients as well as today’s.”

When it comes to the “Establishment” in question, nobody can say Pat McGrady doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Indeed, not long ago, the very orthodox Dr. Michael Shimkin, with whom I locked horns in Harper’sMagazine, wrote me a cordial letter suggesting that I get in touch with Pat McGrady, a man, he said, more knowledgeable about the “odd corners” and dark spots of cancer research than anyone in the world.

Speaking of Harper’s, I’m told that the magazine published two letters on its cancer special of this spring. Both letters had to do with my defense of unorthodoxy — and both were critical of my stance.

James Watson, the Nobel Prize winner, who earlier this year, in a one or two-line letter, said I had misrepresented his views, never did respond to my questions as to just how I had misrepresented him. I gathered that he didn’t like it when I reported that he had seemingly softened his views on the inefficiencies and misplaced priorities of our National Cancer Plan. Though no further word on this matter has been forthcoming, I was pleased when Dr. Watson invited me up to Cold Spring Harbor to attend a cancer conference later this year.

Dan Greenberg, the Washington-based science writer discussed in previous newsletters, tells me that he took DMR-2 (on the Laetrile studies) to a U.S. Congressman, who in turn took it to the National Cancer Institute and requested a response. “Presumably,” Greenberg reports, “this is in the works now.”

In Canada, meanwhile, the Honorable Marc Lalonde, minister of National Health and Welfare, notes that a “careful review” of my Laetrile newsletters is in progress in that country.

Received in New York on September 7, 1976

David M. Rorvik, a freelance writer, is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner. He is studying the politics of cancer research in the United States and elsewhere. This article may be published with credit to Mr. Rorvik as a Fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. The views expressed by the author in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Foundation.