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'Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering' a one-sided tale

 'Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering' a one-sided tale
Cartoon image from "Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering." (Handout)

The documentary "Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering" examines a brief period in the 1970s when a respected doctor's research into the unconventional, often-banned and quack-labeled therapy laetrile — a modified chemical substance found in apricot pits — appeared to promise a remedy for cancer patients. (Results showed slower tumor growth in mice.)

The movie's central figure is Ralph W. Moss, who recounts his stint as Memorial Sloan Kettering's head public relations guy and his bristling at the New York institute's effort to squelch the findings of Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, a 60-year veteran of the center and a pioneer in the use of chemotherapy to treat cancer.

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Moss took the whistle-blower route, first secretively (starting an underground publication called Second Opinion) and then openly, which cost him his job, and it's all director Eric Merola can do to give this story the feeling of "The Insider."

It's an intriguing tale, for sure, but "Second Opinion" isn't journalism, because only Moss, his family and a supportive cohort or two are interviewed. We don't hear from anyone on the other side of the story. The film isn't history either, since little else about the long campaign to legitimize laetrile is explored. This one's for the conspiracy-minded only.

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"Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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