Squaring the circle – cancer vaccines
By the 1890s William B. Coley had injected streptococcal organisms in patients with solid tumours (“Coley’s Toxins”) to activate the immune system. Coley (1862-1936) was an American bone surgeon and pioneer of cancer immunotherapy. He was convinced that post-surgical infections had helped patients to recover better from their cancer by provoking an immune response.
Because of severe adverse effects due to the living streptococcal organisms, he switched to using dead bacteria. But Coley’s published results were difficult to interpret with confidence. “More research would be needed to determine what benefit, if any, this therapy might have for people with cancer” (American Cancer Society). Nevertheless, Coley is known as the “Father of Immunotherapy”.1
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