first immunotherapy for cancer

Back at the turn of the 20th century, the only treatment for most types of cancer was surgery. When a young New York doctor lost his first patient to sarcoma despite treating her by the book, he began to look for other approaches. What he came up with was actually the first immunotherapy for cancer.

Dr. William Coley discovered that some cancer patients with strep infections developed high fevers and subsequently had their tumors regress. He worked out a way to induce fever with a bacterial toxin, dubbed Coley’s toxin. This first immunotherapy for cancer had quite an impressive success rate.

What Happened to the First Immunotherapy for Cancer?

Coley’s toxin was used by many doctors during the first part of the 20th century. When conventional chemotherapy was developed mid-century, it displaced Coley’s toxin. Dr. Coley’s approach was largely forgotten for decades. Around the turn of the 21st century, entrepreneur Don MacAdam attempted to produce it commercially, but his efforts were thwarted by regulatory agencies such as HealthCanada and the FDA.

Does the First Immunotherapy for Cancer Hold Any Lessons for Our Time?

Immunotherapy is now one of the most promising new treatments for many types of cancer. Some medicines, such as CAR-T , are designed specifically for individual patients and teach their immune systems to attack the cancer. Understanding how Coley’s toxin worked against cancer also helps us understand these modern medications.

Oncologists are now using immunotherapy in conjunction with chemotherapy to kill cancer cells and get a better response. Find out how the lymphatic system is involved in this way of treating cancer and how doctors try to determine which patients will respond best. How can families stay up to date on the latest treatments? One resource we discuss with Dr. Evans is

This Week’s Guests:

Don MacAdam is the former head of MBVax Bioscience and the author of The Reinvention of Coley’s Toxins that tells the story of a small company with limited financial resources that proved a modern version of the first immunotherapy for cancer was able to induce complete and lasting regressions of cancers that no longer responded to conventional therapies. His book is available at Amazon:

Sharon S. Evans, PhD, is a Professor of Oncology in the Immunology Department at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Evans is a past president of the international Society for Thermal Medicine, which honored her this past year with the J. Eugene Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award. Her research program is focused on the inflammatory cues that positively or negatively impact our protective immune system during infection or medical treatments such as cancer immunotherapy.
Roswell Park was one of the very first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute, in 1972.

Filip Janku, MD, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics of the Division of Cancer Medicine at the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program has been extended to include more of Don MacAdam’s story. It also includes an interview with Filip Janku, MD, PhD. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics of the Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. His research, published in Science Translational Medicine, demonstrated that injecting bacterial spores into tumors can be a successful treatment.  Here is a description from the journal  Science.

The podcast will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:February 2, 2019

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  1. T
    Concord, NC

    I listened to this on the apple podcast the first time but it has now disappeared from there? This makes me curious as to why. Great information and I hope it stays up here. Thanks so much for these very useful reports!

  2. Brenda

    I think the FDA is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies and don’t have the public’s best interest in their actions.

  3. Don

    Mary Jane from NYC has it right when she says the pharmaceutical companys profit from disease. Look at the removal of coffee enemas from the merk manual that are being used today to treat and cure many diseases including cancer. Do you think that’s an accident. They removed botony from med school as well because you can’t patent a plant and charge ridiculous amount of money for them.

  4. Jim

    I had heard of this years ago and wondered why such a therapy was not worked with. After all, the body is the best healer of itself.

    All that the medical establishments want to do is teach…chemicals…chemicals and more chemicals…… If the body is thwarted in healing itself the patient has to look elsewhere for help….we have “a career”!

    The Hippocratic Oath was thrown out years ago for the money and not useful for healing. If I were to ever be faced with this medical crisis, I would NOT go to ANY established institution. I have seen 5 out of 5 friends I have had, within the last 8 years die from this illness. ALL went to the same SELF-TOUTED Cancer institute of higher successes (highly regarded, highly advertised and highly profit centered, all for the namesake). ALL died within 2 years of their of their diagnosis. All suffered at the hands of the “Medical Establishment” with tortures beyond witchcraft!
    “We recommend one last procedure that will eliminate the threat of reoccurance”……. was told to one very dear friend. It was like throwing a match on a pail of gas! 6 months of PURE torture and agony finally came to an end when nature removed her from this experiment of horrors. Most issues , when looked at with common sense, can be dealt with in a sane and same manner. The opportunities presented to the medical profession are not to be capitalized on for the provider’s financial good, but for the patient’s good.

    When will we learn that because we are in a newer age, it doesn’t mean “Better”. Someone had a better way…help the body heal itself….. a century ago and… IT GOT SHELVED for radiation “cooking” the problem, “the knife” and dumping VERY nasty chemicals into the patient to eat it up….Guess what,……. it KILLS the patient over time if not within a short time. A nasty fever under control will do more for the patient and allow the body to work on the sickness instead of being overwhelmed with a barrage of chemicals and nasty burns internal and external trying to fix the inflicted wounds all the while NOT getting to the illness!

    Bet this missive doesn’t get published….
    IF we would just use some common sense and NOT use the “recommended cookbook” of BAD remedies we would be better treated. Sometimes(always) the simplest solution is the best!

  5. Samuel
    Binghamton, NY

    There are blood tests for allergens, measuring the allergic response for over a hundred allergens, environmental and food. Has anyone used such tests to mix up a dilute allergy shot to be injected into a tumor site to stimulate an immune response with an epi-pen nearby?

  6. Mary Jane

    This is not the only instance of a less-harmful treatment of a disease. Although I don’t recall the details, I once read about a practitioner who devised a means to treat diabetes by a diet offering a meager selection of foods. It seems clear that powerful forces are at work ensuring that pharmaceutical companies can profit from diseases rather than treat them in a manner that is better for the patient.

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