Up to 90% of cancer patients use natural healing methods in the course of their illness. In so doing they hope for a clear therapeutic benefit with almost no side effects. Many independent medical practitioners now offer complementary medical procedures of this type and many patients take up the offer. However, only very limited knowledge exists about the actual usefulness of many of these natural substances. This is especially true of the natural substance amygdalin and laetrile, also known as B17, which is chemically similar. Amygdalin is present at high concentrations in apricot stones, apple cores and bitter almonds. The substance has long been used to treat tumours but no scientific evidence of its effectiveness has yet been provided. This means that amygdalin can be judged only on the basis of inaccurate and untrustworthy reports. Patients are unsettled while proponents and sceptics remain almost irreconcilably in opposite corners. What is really behind amygdalin?

A pilot study was recently carried out at Frankfurt’s Goethe University Hospital under the leadership of Prof. Axel Haferkamp, director of the urology and paediatric urology department, and Prof. Roman Blaheta, head of the department’s research laboratory. The study provided evidence that amygdalin is able to cause clear inhibition of growth in isolated tumour cells. On the basis of this finding a major research project has now been initiated to investigate the effect of amygdalin on the aggressive spread of individual tumour cells. Questions about the effectiveness and specificity of amygdalin’s action are at the forefront of this project. The project asks to what extent amygdalin is able to inhibit the uncontrolled multiplication of tumour cells and which tumour-promoting signals within the cell are switched off by amygdalin. The aim of the project is to create a scientific basis for amygdalin and to provide objective evidence to substantiate its usefulness.