Written by Adele Stapf, Helen Cooke, Helen Seers and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated February 8, 2017

Amygdalin/Laetrile

Does it work?

Use as anti-cancer therapy

Systematic reviews

The authors of a 2015 Cochrane systematic review were unable to find any randomised controlled trials assessing the effectiveness of laetrile. They concluded that there was no evidence that laetrile was effective as an anti-cancer agent.6

Clinical trials

Two clinical trials have been conducted using amygdalin/laetrile:

In the first uncontrolled study (phase I;  n = 6) amygdalin was applied intravenously at a dosage of 4.5  g/m2 body surface followed by oral administration of  0.5 g three times daily.7 Additionally, patients took a combination of several vitamins and enzymes and followed a diet. Two of the six tumour patients studied developed symptoms of cyanide poisoning while they were taking oral amygdalin. No indications of clinical effectiveness were found.

The second clinical trial (phase II; n = 175) compared the above amygdalin dosage regimen versus a “high-dose group” (7 g/m2 body surface i.v. for 21 days followed by 0.5 g four times daily). Also the adjunct treatment programme comprising vitamins, dietary guidelines and enzymes differed in terms of the dosages used. One participant showed a decrease in tumour size.8

Observational studies and case series

No observational studies and case series allowing conclusions about the effectiveness and efficacy of amygdalin are available.

Citation

Adele Stapf, Helen Cooke, Helen Seers, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Amygdalin/Laetrile [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Amygdalin-Laetrile. February 8, 2017.

Document history

Assessed as up to date in February 2017 by Barbara Wider.

Updated and revised in July 2015 by Adele Stapf.
Updated in April 2014 by Barbara Wider.
Assessed as up to date in December 2012 by Helen Cooke.
Most recent update and revision in December 2011 by Helen Cooke.
Fully revised and updated in July 2009 by Helen Cooke.
Summary first published in September 2005, authored by Helen Seers.

References

  1. Davignon, JP, Trissel, LA, & Kleinman, LM. Pharmaceutical assessment of amygdalin (Laetrile) products. Cancer Treatment Reports. 1978; 62 (1): 99-104.
  2. Chandler, RF, Phillipson, JD & Anderson, LA. Controversial Laetrile. Journal of Pharmacology. 1984; 232: 330-332
  3. Ellison, NM, Byar, DP, & Newell, GR. Special report on Laetrile: the NCI Laetrile Review. Results of the National Cancer Institute's retrospective Laetrile analysis.New England Journal of Medicine. 1978; 7;299 (10):549-52.
  4. Bulletin zur Arzneimittelsicherheit. Informationen aus BfArM und PEI. Ausgabe 3, September 2014. http://www.bfarm.de/bulletin, accessed 8th February 2017.
  5. McCarrison, SR. “Nutrition and National Health.” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts. 1936. lxxxiv, 1047, 1067, 1087.
  6. Milazzo S & Horneber M. Laetrile treatment for cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Apr 28;4:CD005476. doi: 0.1002/14651858.CD005476.pub4.
  7. Moertel, CG, Ames, MM, Kovach, JS, et al. A pharmacologic and toxicological study of amygdalin. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1981. 245 (6): 591-4.
  8. Moertel, CG, Fleming, TR, Rubin, J, et al. A clinical trial of amygdalin (Laetrile) in the treatment of human cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 1982; 306 (4): 201-6.
  9. Braico, KT, Humbert, JR, Terplan, KL, & Lehotay, JM. Laetrile intoxication: report of a fatal case, New England Journal of Medicine. 1979; 1; 300 (5): 238-40.
  10. Sadoff, L, Fuchs, K, & Hollander, J, Rapid death associated with Laetrile ingestion, Journal of the American Medical Association. 1978; 14; 239 (15): 1532.
  11. Lee, M, Berger, HW, Givre, HL, et al. Near fatal Laetrile intoxication: Complete recovery with supportive treatment, Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine. 1982; 49 (4): 305-307.
  12. Bromley J, Hughes BG, Leong DC, Buckley NA. Life-threatening interaction between complementary medicines: cyanide toxicity following ingestion of amygdalin and vitamin C. Ann Pharmacother. 2005 Sep;39(9):1566-9.
  13. Sauer H, Wollny C, Oster I, Tutdibi E, Gortner L, Gottschling S, Meyer S. Severe cyanide poisoning from an alternative medicine treatment with amygdalin and apricot kernels in a 4-year-old child. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2015 May;165(9-10):185-188.
  14. Newmark J, Brady, RO, Grimley, PM, Gal, AE, Waller, SG, & Thistlethwaite, JR. Amygdalin (Laetrile) and pruasin beta-glucosidases: Distribution in germ free rat and in human tumor tissue. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1981; 78 (10): 6513-6.
  15. Milazzo S, Lejeune S, Ernst E. Laetrile for cancer: a systematic review of the clinical evidence. Support Care Cancer. 2007 Jun;15(6):583-95.
  16. Yamada H, Nakamura T, Oguri K. Induction of rat hepatic cytochromes P450 by toxic ingredients in plants: lack of correlation between toxicity and inductive activity. J Toxicol Sci. 1998 Dec;23(5):395-402.