Anti-Cancer Drug Awaits FDA Test

Next time you eat an apricot, take a good look at the pit. This seed, along with seeds of many other fruits, contains a chemical which has been described as "an ideal anti-cancer drug."

The drug, laetrile, is currently banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from use, clinical testing and distribution in this country. The FDA calls it unproven and dangerous. Last night, proponents of laetrile came to Harvard to present their case for legalization in a film entitled Laetrllet Nature's Answer to Cancer.

The film, which attracted a crowd of 200, presented a case for laetrile as a revolutionary drug: "Laetrile will be to cancer what insulin is to diabetes."


Laetrile has been known for over a hundred years, and was used haphazardly until the 1950s when various clinicians, mostly in Canada and Mexico, began using it consistently for cancer treatments.

The premise behind the drug's method of action is that cancer cells have particular hormonal characteristics which make tumors incapable of detoxifying laetrile. Every other cell in the body, the theory goes, is insensitive to laetrile's actions. Thus, laetrile is a selective killer of cancer.


This theory is internally consistent, and laetrile's sponsors proclaim that they have found the "Cure for Cancer."

The promotion organization that brought the movie to Harvard also ships cancer patients across the Mexican border for treatment in Tijuana.

Several cases of apparent regression of cancer from laetrile treatment have been reported: in fact, the number of such cases in Mexico and South America indicates that the drug may well have some useful characteristics.

Laetrile, however, is illegal in the United States. The FDA officially holds that sponsors of the drug must simply apply for permission for clinical testing. divestiture cited in the report include the following:

Divestiture would transfer Harvard's shares to other investors who are not as responsive to social problems as Harvard. The report states that "Harvard is one of the few investors that have decided to include consideration of social issues directly in the making of investment decisions."

Immediate divestiture could cost Harvard "up to several million dollars."

Gulf's contribution to the Portuguese government is not "nearly so critical" as has been alleged. "Its payments to Portugal are limited; its oil is solely for export and does not fuel the Portuguese war effort."

Farber's report also explores the Portuguese role in Angola since 1961 and the precise nature of Gulf's operations there. The report then lists the major arguments against Gulf's involvement in Angola and Gulf's responses.

In the final section of the report, Farber discusses the question of whether Harvard should vote for or against an insurgent proxy resolution which would require Gulf to issue a full report detailing its operations in Angola.

Members of PALC and Harvard and Radcliffe Black Students said last night that they would not respond immediately to Farber because of "the detailed nature of the report." Representatives of the two organizations did say, however, that they would issue statements dealing with the report "some time within the next seven days.