Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Immunotherapy Is Older Than Many Think

Immunotherapy as a cancer treatment has received increased attention lately, mostly because Jimmy Carter was successfully saved by this non-toxic therapy. But it is not a new way of thinking about cancer! In the 1890s, the much misunderstood doctor William Coley was pretty much traumatised from losing a patient to sarcoma (I like him already! He had a soul!) and so began to sift through old records at New York Hospital in order to find something that would point him in the direction of an effective treatment (that did not involve amputation, obviously). Coley then discovered the case of a German man with a recurrent tumour on his neck, who was expected to die until his tumour just disappeared after a strep infection. He decided that the strep infection managed to reverse the cancer, and then tested his theory on another seriously ill man dying of sarcoma (do not try this at home! There are many immunotherapy/hyperthermia clinics, particularly in Europe). After getting his hands on a strong strain of strep bacteria, this man became violently ill, but in 24 hours his tumour began to disintegrate, and he completely recovered. William Coley finally got his revenge against sarcoma. Unfortunately, radiation overshadowed his successes, possibly because you couldn't type "radiotherapy side effects" into Google Images for another century. But then his daughter founded the Cancer Research Institute, and now there is a much greater understanding of the immune system and how it can fight cancer. I will say that all cancer deaths over the past 100 years were unnecessarily caused by the desire for one-size-fits-all treatments regardless of their toxicity. I am not going to mince my words like I am "supposed to", I hate the usual discourse around cancer where you are a monster if you do not accept death and toxic treatment ideas.

Why am I writing about this when I study natural medicine? Because it is not toxic, and there are things natural medicine can offer to make immunotherapy safer and more effective. One of these things is supplementation with Bifidobacterium probiotics. Mice given Bifidobacterium were able to respond to immunotherapy, and this actually exerted its own anti-cancer effects separately from the drugs. These bacteria did not leave the intestines, they simply communicated with roaming immune cells. Bifidobacterium containing probiotics are widely available, as well as a wide variety of nutritional supplements and herbs that can modulate the immune system, but there needs to be more research on combining these with immunotherapy drugs because most naturopaths don't seem to know how to work with them.

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