The Status of Mucorhicin in California

July 22, 2006

Mucorhicin was developed by Philip L. Drosnes and Lillian H. Lazenby sometime between 1943 and 1948. Prior to assuming directorship of the Drosnes-Lazenby Cancer Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Drosnes was reported to be a tire salesman and his associate, Mrs. Lazenby, was reported to have been in charge of a hospital cafeteria. During the fall of 1948, Mr. Drosnes and Mrs. Lazenby were convicted of practicing medicine without a license; the Clinic, which occupied the casement of a church was closed. The sentence was appealed, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Later in 1948, the Clinic was reopened under the direction of Paul A. Murray, M.D. In 1949, Joseph W. Wilson, M. D., joined Dr. Murray, assuming the position of medical director upon the death of Dr. Murray in 1954.

The agent itself, Mucorhicin, was described by Dr. Wilson as an enzymatic product of biologically processed whole wheat grain, and therefore could not be classified as a drug subject to administration by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Mucorhicin was available to practitioners for general practice at the price of $6.75 per bottle—equivalent to a week’s supply—administered orally only in conjunction with a diet.

The name Mucorhicin does reflect its contents, Mucor and Rhizopus, two fungi reportedly found in the agent. The substance was claimed by its dispensers to be a substrate produced by cultivation of a mold on a nutrient medium composed of yeast, salt, whole wheat and sterile water. The secretion of the mold is the product used in the treatment of cancer.

Instructions supplied with Mucorhicin indicated the dosage, possible side reactions, and a supplementary diet list. The Drosnes-Lazenby Diet allowed considerable latitude among fruits and vegetables which may be cooked or uncooked, but must be fresh and unpeeled. Eggs must be soft-boiled or poached. Bran, oatmeal or whole wheat cereal preparations with raw milk, dark brown sugar, molasses or pure honey were permitted, as Hell as buttermilk, weak coffee or tea, raw certified milk and ginger ale. No fried meats or fresh pork were allowed. To be avoided were highly seasoned or fried foods, pastries and starchy foods.

Mucorhicin was tested several times in the laboratories of the National Cancer Institute and the American Medical Association. Results of microbiologic examinations conducted in 1948, 1949 and 1956, were supplied to Dr. Halter E. Batchelder of the Cancer Commission, California Medical Association, by Oliver Field, Director, Bureau of Investigation, American Medical Association.

The first specimen examined in 1948 by the National Cancer Institute indicated that Mucorhicin is “very crude … a mixture of several fungus and animal species.” Direct examination revealed the presence of Cladosporium, Penicillium, spp., Alternaria, Geotrichum, and yeasts. In addition there are two types of mites . . .typical of the species frequently found in contaminated cultures of fungi upon which they feed. The most conspicuous elements of the material upon microscopic examination are the fecal masses of these mites containing the partially digested fungus spores. A reexamination of the material in March 1949 added nothing new to the analysis. A report from the Association Laboratory described in a letter of 1958 states:

“Under high-dry magnification there were large numbers of formed and unformed yellowish debris. Numerous ‘yeast’ cells (some budding forms), many large cellular structures resembling granules . . . and numerous motile and nonmotile bacteria. Under gram stain the specimens showed a moderate amount of unformed gram-negative debris and a few short gram-positive rods.”

Mucorhicin was also examined in California at the request of the California Medical Association. Dr. Paul L. Kirk, prominent chemist and microbiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, examined the material in 1958 and again in 1962, at the request of the State Department of Public Health. His microscopic, cultural, antibiotic and chemical tests indicated that the material was a yeast culture, contaminated by two kinds of bacteria, lacking antibiotic activity as was being claimed. The 1962 report found no fundamental change in the material except possible “cleaning up” of extraneous contaminants rather than introduction of any therapeutic. components.

Action of the Cancer Advisory Council

In 1959, when the Cancer Law was enacted, Mucorhicin may not have been used in California. However, by 1962, evidence presented before an Accusatory Hearing under Section 1704(d) of the Health and Safety Code indicated that it had been obtained and was being administered by practitioners in California. The hearing was called against Charlotte M. Steiner, D.C., October 29, 1962. Harold A. Delp testified under oath that Dr. Steiner had sold Mucorhicin to his wife for treatment of metastatic breast cancer in 1960 and 1961. Mrs. Delp had died on February 10, 1961 of metastatic carcinoma to brain and lungs from a primary source in breast (California death certificate #61-011343) after having used considerable amounts of Mucorhicin to treat her malignancy. At the same hearing, Mrs. Bessie L. Tomlinson testified under oath that Mucorhicin had been prescribed by Dr. Steiner for a malignancy. Proof of her purchase was verified by two cancelled checks, $10.00 each, payment for direct purchases from the Pittsburgh Clinic. Dr. Steiner failed to supply a sample of Mucorhicin to the State Department of Public Health and thereby was advised to cease and desist dispensing the agent, under Section 1707 of the Health and Safety Code.

The Cancer Advisory Council continued to investigate the use and value of Mucorhicin. Documentation included:

  • Certified copies of death certificates of patients from widely separated states (Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, California, West Virginia) treated with Mucorhicin, all of which noted cancer as prime cause of death
  • Laboratory findings of the National Cancer Institute, American Medical Association and Dr. Kirk; opinions of the Deans of California Schools of Medicine.
  • Literature received by California physicians, claiming the therapeutic value of Mucorhicin, was also evaluated.
  • No articles were ever published in recognized medical journals concerning Mucorhicin
  • Testimonials and feature articles appearing in Pittsburgh media described its capabilities.

On April 17, 1963, the Cancer Advisory Council concluded its studies by finding that Mucorhicin was of no value in the diagnosis, treatment, alleviation, or cure of cancer and recommended to the Director of the State Department of Public Health that appropriate action be taken to prohibit its prescription, administration, sale or other distribution. This action was scheduled for consideration by the State Board of Public Health on July 19, 1963 but prior to this meeting Dr. Wilson, the producer of Mucorhicin, offered to furnish clinical records which he implied would show the agent to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. This reasonable request was honored, but Dr. Wilson failed to present additional material supporting his claims. A regulation containing the features recommended by the Council was adopted by the State Board of Public Health on September 20, 1963. This regulation appears as Section 10400.5, Chapter 5, Subchapter 2, Article 2 of the Administrative Code and became effective November 3, 1963.

This article was posted on July 22, 2006.