One Year: 1977

Season 1: Episode 4

The Miracle Cure

Medical experts said the cancer drug Laetrile was dangerous quackery. It became a national sensation anyway.


Episode Notes

Medical authorities said that Laetrile was dangerous quackery. It became a sensation anyway. Diana Green saw this drug made from apricot pits as her son Chad’s best chance to survive leukemia. Her shocking actions, and the little boy affected by them, became the focus of a heated national debate over freedom of medical choice.

One Year is produced by Josh Levin, Evan Chung, and Madeline Ducharme. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

Sources for This Episode


Laetrile: The Commissioner’s Decision, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Food and Drug Administration, 1977.

Laetrile Administrative Rule Making Hearing Oral Argument, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Food and Drug Administration, 1977.

Markle, Gerald E. and James C. Petersen, ed. Politics, Science, and Cancer: The Laetrile Phenomenon, Westview Press, 1980.

Meyer, Diana. Chad’s Triumph: The Story of the Life of Chad Green, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, 2007.

Patterson, James T. The Dread Disease: Cancer and Modern American Culture, Harvard University Press, 1989.

Truman, John T., et al. Human Values in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Praeger, 1986.

Ziegler, Mary. Beyond Abortion: Roe v. Wade and the Battle for Privacy, Harvard University Press, 2018.


Altman, Lawrence K. “Some States Going Beyond Laetrile To Legalize Unlicensed Substances,” New York Times, June 8, 1977.

Bruzelius, Nils J. “Attorney Fears Chad Being Used by Group,” Boston Globe, June 1, 1979.

Bruzelius, Nils J. “Greens Apologize; Case Closed,” Boston Globe, Dec. 9, 1980.

Bruzelius, Nils J. “The Merchants of Laetrile,” Boston Globe, June 17, 1979.

Bruzelius, Nils J. “They Shop for Hope at Clinic,” Boston Globe, Jan. 28, 1979.

Califano Jr., Joseph A. “Medical Marijuana and the Lesson of Laetrile,” Washington Post, Feb. 17, 1997.

The Cancer Drug Dilemma,” New York Times, Feb. 11, 1977.

“Chad Green Romps; Boy’s Folks Go on Stage,” Associated Press, Feb. 22, 1979.

Clark, Marr. “Laetrile and Cancer,” Newsweek, June 27, 1977.

Doherty, William F. “Chad Green Given Laetrile by Mother,” Boston Globe, Sept. 19, 1978.

“East Bay Doctor Is Arrested,” San Francisco Examiner, June 2, 1972.

Harris, Louis. “Laetrile Ban Opposed,” Harris Survey, June 27, 1977.

Hiaasen, Carl A. “Cancer Milestone or Curse?” Tampa Bay Times, Feb. 13, 1977.

Holles, Everett R. “Coast Ring Smuggles Banned Cancer Drug,” New York Times, May 26, 1975.

King, Wayne. “Lawsuit on Laetrile Resuming in Atlanta,” New York Times, Feb. 6, 1978.

Knox, Richard A. “Chad Green: 54% Oppose Court Order,” Boston Globe, May 8, 1978.

Knox, Richard A. “Chad’s Parents Lose a Round,” Boston Globe, March 29, 1978.

Knox, Richard A. “Did Chad Green Have to Die Now? No One Can Know the Truth,” Boston Globe, Oct. 15, 1979.

Knox, Richard A. “MGH, Greens Renew Struggle Over Chad,” Boston Globe, March 30, 1978.

Knox, Richard A. “Treatments for Chad OK’d Pending Ruling,” Boston Globe, March 31, 1978.

La Roche, Leslie. “Chad’s Parents Continue Fight for Freedom in Treatment,” Associated Press, Nov. 23, 1979.

Lerner, Barron H. “McQueen’s Legacy of Laetrile,” New York Times, Nov. 15, 2005.

Lyons, Richard D. “Disputed Health Lobby Is Pressing For a Bill to Overturn Any Limits on Sales of Vitamins,” New York Times, May 14, 1973.

Lyons, Richard D. “Inquiry Casts Doubt on Laetrile Figures,” New York Times, June 26, 1977.

Schmeck Jr., Harold M. “Final Report on U.S. Laetrile Study Says Drug Has No Value,” New York Times, Jan. 28, 1982.

Steinmann, Marion. “A Child’s Fight for Life: Parents vs. Doctors,” New York Times Magazine, Dec. 10, 1978.

Sullivan, Jerome. “Chad Kidnap Charge Mulled,” Boston Globe, Jan. 25, 1979.

Tallarida, Alex. “War On Cancer,” Nixon Foundation, April 14, 2010.

Thompson, Senfronia and Dewey W. Johnston. “Laetrile: Will It Help Victims of Cancer?” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 4, 1977.

Trotter, Jim. “Laetrile Clears Another Hurdle,” Austin American-Statesman, May 3, 1977.

Academic Articles

Krebs, E.T. and E.T. Krebs Jr. “The Unitarian or Trophoblastic Thesis of Cancer,Med Rec. 163, No. 7, July 1950, 149-74.

Lerner, Irving J. “Laetrile: A Lesson in Cancer Quackery,” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 31, No. 2, March/April 1981, 91-5

Nightingale, Stuart L. “Laetrile: The Regulatory Challenge of an Unproven Remedy,” Public Health Reports 99, No. 4, July-August 1984, 333-8.

Petersen, James C. and Gerald E. Markle. “Politics and Science in the Laetrile Controversy,” Social Studies of Science 9, No. 2, May 1979, 139-166.

Rich, Robert F. “The Political Implications of Laetrile: Who Gets What, When and How,” in Politics, Science, and Cancer: The Laetrile Phenomenon, ed. Gerald E. Markle and James C. Petersen. Westview Press, 1980, 73-98.

Treatment of Cancer With Laetriles; A Report by the Cancer Commission of the California Medical Association,” California Med. 78, No. 4, April 1953, 320-6.

Wade, Nicholas. “Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering: A Question of Ambiguity,” Science 198, No. 4323, Dec. 23, 1977, 1231-1234.

Young, James Harvey. “Laetrile in Historical Perspective,” in Politics, Science, and Cancer: The Laetrile Phenomenon, ed. Gerald E. Markle and James C. Petersen. Westview Press, 1980, 11-60.


About the Show

The people and struggles that changed America—one year at a time. In each episode, host Josh Levin explores a story you may have forgotten, or one you’ve never heard of before. What were the moments that transformed politics, culture, science, religion, and more? And how does the nation’s past shape our present?

The first season of One Year focuses on 1977, a year when gay rights hung in the balance, Roots dominated the airwaves, and Jesus appeared on a tortilla.

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