Coley’s Toxins / Issel’s Fever Therapy

By Matti Narkia, Helsinki, Finland


Fever therapy, which has helped to stop or slow down the advancement of my disease is an American invention, which in the latter part of this century has mainly been practised in Europe. Because of recent inquiries, and to pay tribute to the great American doctor who invented this therapy, I did some homework and collected information about fever therapy from the books of three American authors into a concise summary. The information includes data up to 1991, I have no knowledge of what, if anything, has happened in this area since then.

I have included contact information of some clinics which include fever therapy in their cancer program. Some of this data may have changed. I obtained this information from the books mentioned, I have no knowledge of the quality of the medical services offered and therefore cannot endorse any of them. If you have any further information – positive or (especially) negative – of the quality of the services, success rate etc.., of these clinics, I would greatly appreciate it if you mailed me a comment.

Coley’s Toxins a.k.a. Mixed Bacterial Vaccine (MBV)


In 1888, Dr. William B. Coley (1862-1936), Harvard Medical School graduate, and eminent New York City surgeon and Sloan-Kettering researcher, stumbled across one of the most intriguing findings ever made in cancer research. In fact, his invention was a starting point for all modern immunotherapy. His discovery was first tolerated, then ridiculed, and finally suppressed, although in recent years some new interest in his discovery has emerged among researchers.

Frustrated after losing his first patient at Memorial Hospital, a 19 year old female bone cancer patient, despite an early detection followed by prompt amputation of her arm and a good prognosis, Coley began methodically searching the patient records at New York Hospital . He went back 15 years and examined records of all bone cancer patients. Most cases ended in failure and death. To his amazament, however, Coley discovered one patient who had been given up for lost by his doctors and yet had walked out of the hospital in apparently perfect health [1]. On his deathbed, this patient had suffered two attacks of erysipelas, a severe skin infection caused by bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes.

Coley’s first attempts to produce reaction in cancer patients by injecting streptococcus cultures into them ended in failure. Luckily, he managed to get a particularly virulent culture from a famous German bacteriologist, Robert Koch, through a friend. The patient who received this culture developed a severe case of erysipelas with high fever. Within a few days the tumors on his tonsils and neck completely disappeared. In 1893 Coley published his first paper on the new method [2].

Because using live bacteria was dangerous and caused an ordeal for the patient, Coley later tried to and succeeded in improving his method. Instead of using bacteria, he mixed the toxins of the strep with those of another germ, Bacillus prodigiosus, which today is called Serratia marcesens. This seemed to work similarly to the live culture.

Best results were obtained when Dr. Coley or his colleague supervised the production of toxins. Parke-Davis, the pharmaceutical company, also produced the toxins commercially for many years, but they heated the formula, which reduced its effectiviness. Despite that, even this weakened form of toxins, Parke-Davis formula #IX, showed 37 percent cure rate for inoperable patients.

In 1943 NCI researcher M.J. Shears discovered that the biologically active substance in Coley’s toxins is lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which occurs in the cell walls of gram-negative bacteria [4].

By 1953, however, all the production of the toxins in the United States stopped.

For over 30 years starting late 50s or early 60s, Dr. France Havas, professor emeritus of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, studied the effects of Coley’s toxins in mice and humans. The results of her studies were generally favorable, even in advanced patients [5,6,7,8].

In 1976 randomized trials of mixed bacterial vaccines (MBV) – as Coley’s toxins are now called – begun at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

In 1991 K.F.Kolmel and colleagues in Gottingen, Germany reported on favorable results obtained on treatment of advanced melanoma with Coley’s toxins [9].

Recently Coley’s toxins have been researched and used also in China. Zhao and others published 1991 preliminary results of these trials [10].


Coley’s results have been tabulated by his daughter, Helen Coley Nauts, D.Sc., former executive director of the Cancer Research Institute, Inc., in New York City [11]. She and her medical colleagues have documented 894 cases treated with Coley’s vaccine. Examples:

Tumor type    # of operable    Alive after   # of inoper.     Alive after
patients       5 years         patients       5 years
Giant cell
bone tumor         38           33 (87%)          19            15 (79%)
Breast cancer      13           13 (100%)         20            13 (65%)

Other 5-year survival rates: 67% in Hodgkin’s disease, 67% in inoperable ovarian cancer, 60% in inoperable malignant melanoma. Overall, patients with inoperable tumor of various kinds had 45% 5-year survival, while those with operable tumors had 50%.

In 1962, Dr. Barbara Johnston, M.D. published a double blind study on Coley’s toxins. This study was conducted at New York University-Bellevue Hospital. The results were clear-cut. In the control group treated with fever inducing placebo, only one patient of 37 showed any signs of improvement. Of the 34 patients treated with Coley’s toxins, 18 showed no improvement, 7 noted decreased pain while 9 showed such benefits as tumor necrosis, apparent inhibition of metastases, shrinkage of lymph nodes, and disappearance of tumors [12].

In 1982 at the conference held in Cologne, Germany, Mrs. Nauts reported the first results of randomized trials of MBV (Coley’s toxins) begun in 1976 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering: Advanced non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients receiving MBV had a 93 percent remission rate as opposed to 29 percent for controls who received chemotherapy alone [13].


[1] Cancer Research Institute. Review of Progress and Hope. New York 1976.

[2] Coley, William B. “A Preliminary Note on the Treatment of Inoperable Sarcoma by the Toxic Product of Erysipelas.” Post-graduate 8:278-86, 1893.

[3] Coley, William B. “The Cancer Symposium at Lake Mohonk.” American Journal of Surgery (New Series) 1:222-25, October 1926.

[4] Ward, Patricia Spain. Memo to John Gibbons. December 2 1988.

[5] Havas H, et al. Mixed bacterial toxins in the treatment of tumors. I. Methods of preparation and effects on normal or Sarcoma 37-bearing mice. Cancer Res. 1958;18:141-148.

[6] Havas H, et al. Mixed bacterial toxins in the treatment of tumors. III. Effect of tumor removal on the toxicity and mortality rates in mice. Cancer Res. 1960;20:393-396

[7] Havas H, and Donnelly A. Mixed bacterial toxins in the treatment of tumors. IV. Response of methylcholanthrene-induced, spontaneous, and transplanted tumors in mice. Cancer Res. 1961;21:17-25.

[8] Havas H, et al. The effect of bacterial vaccine on tumors and immune response of ICR/Ha mice. J Biol Res Mod. 1990;9;:194-204.

[9] Kolmel K, et al. Treatment of advanced malignant melanoma by a pyrogenic bacterial lysate. A pilot study. Onkologie. 1991;14:411-417.

[10] Zhao YT, et al. Preliminary reult of mixed bacterial vaccine as adjuvant treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. Med Oncol & Tumor Pharmacother. 1991;8:23-28.

[11] Nauts, Helen Coley. Immunotherapy of Cancer by Bacterial Vaccines. Paper read at International Symposium on Detection and Prevention of Cancer. New York, April 25 – May 1, 1976.

[12] Johnston, Barbara, “Clinical Effects of Coley’s Toxin. 1. Controlled Study. 2. A Seven-Year Study.” Cancer Chemotherapy Reports 21:19-68, August 1962.

[13] Nauts, Helen Coley, Bacterial Products in the Treatment of Cancer: Past, Present and Future. Paper read at the International Colloqium on Bacteriology and Cancer, Clogne, Federal Republic of Germany, March 16-18, 1982.

[14] Nauts, Helen Coley, Bacterial vaccine therapy of cancer. Dev Biol Stand. 1977;38487-94.

[15] Nauts, Helen Coley, Bacterial pyrogens: bemeficial effect on cancer patients. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1982;107:687-96.

[16] Nauts, Helen Cole, Bacteraia and cancer – antagonisms and benefits, Cancer Surv. 1989;8:713-23.

[17] Keen AR and Frelick RW, Response of tumors to thermodynamic stimulation of the immune system. Del Med J. 1990;62:1115-6.

[18] Cunningham RS and Pearson FC. ImuVert activation of natural killer cytotoxicity and interferon gamma production via CD16 triggering. Int J Immunopharmacol. 1990;12:589-98.

[19] Jimenez JJ et al. Treatment with ImuVert aborts development of chloroleukemia in newborn rats. J Biol Response Mod. 1990;9:300-4.

[20] Cress NB, et al. ImuVert therapy in the treatment of recurrent malignant astrocytomas: nursing implications. J Neorosci. Nurs. 1991;23:29-33.

[21] Jaeckle KA, et al. Phase II trial of Serratia marcesenses extract in recurrent malignant astrocytoma. J Clin Oncol. 1990;8:1408-18.

[22] Abe H. [antitumor effect of LPS immobilized beads]. Nippon Geka Gakkai Zasshi. 1991;92:627-35.



For treatment contact Waisbren Clinic:

Burton A. Waisbren Sr., MD, FACP
2315 North Lake Drive
Room 815, Seton Tower
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211
Phone: 414-272-1929

For information contact:

Cancer Research Institute
681 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 800-223-7874, in New York 800-522-5022

In Germany:

Klaus F. Kolmel, Priv. Doz. Med.
Universitats-Haup Klinik
von Sieboldstrasse 3
3400 Gottingen, Germany
Phone: +49-551-396-081. Fax: +49-551-396-092

In China:

Coley Hospital
Phone: +86-1-868-401. Dr. Guo Zheren, MD.

Other Therapies Using Fever

Dr. Josef Issel’s Whole Body Therapy

A pioneer in alternative cancer treatment, Josef Issels, MD, of Germany, achieved remarkable remissions, even in advanced cases, through combination of therapies designed to shrink the tumor and repair the body’s defense mechanisms. His “whole body” approach included anticancer vaccines, an anticancer diet emphasizing organic raw foods, and fever therapy to stimulate immune function. He also used a variety of methods to rebuild the immune system and change the body’s biochemistry to eliminate an evironment favorable for the development of cancer. Occasionally he also used very-low-dose chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and ozone therapy in combination with immunotherapy. He prescribed organ extracts to repair damage to organs and improve their functioning. He also administered organ-specific RNA and DNA, proteolytic enzymes to destroy the protein coat surrounding tumors, as well as vitamins and minerals to strengthen the body’s enzyme activity. He recommended his patients to have the infected teeth and/or tonsils, and metallic (especially mercury amalgam) fillings removed, because he felt these could have unfavorable effect on immune system. His program also includes psychotherapy to deal with the emotional factors that he felt could hinder recovery.

Dr. Issels gave patients a “fever shot” once a month to raise the body temperature as high as 105 F. He induced active fever with the ethical drug Pyrifer, made from specially treated coli bacteria. He induced passive fever by means of hyperthermia: the patient was placed inside a cylinder containing electrodes that bombarded his or her body with ultra short waves.

He tried to motivate the cancer patients to take on full time struggle against cancer. As one unusual example, his cancer patients were routed out of their beds to do light mountain climbing in the Bavarian Alps. The patients also participated in a daily exercise that included jogging.

Two independent studies – one at King’s college Hospital in London, the other at the University of Leyden in Holland – confirmed that about 17 percent of Issel’s terminal patients led normal, cancer-free lives for at least five years. Their life expectancy upon admission had been less than one year.

In 50s and 60s the German medical establishment was nowhere near as liberal as now. It boycotted and isolated Dr. Issels. Finally, the German medical authorities leveled trumped-up charges of fraud and manslaughter against Issels, and in 1960, Issels was imprisoned in a cell block containing only convicted murderers. Eventually, however, Dr. Issels was acquitted of all charges.

Dr. Issels is now living in retirement in Florida. A “multimodality immunotherapy program” based on his method is offered by Ahmed Elkadi, MD, and colleagues at the Panama City Clinic in Panama City, Florida. Another current practitioner of the Issels methods is Dr. Wolfgang Woeppel at the Hufeland Klinik in Bad Mergentheim, Germany.


[1] Issels, Josef, Cancer: A Second Opinion. London 1975.

[2] Issels, Josef, “Cancer – Whole-body Approach and Immunotherapy,” lecture given in New York, 1980.

Resources for Dr. Issel’s Therapy

Akbar Clinic (Panama City Clinic)
Ahmed Elkadi, MD
236 South Tyndall Parkway
Panama City, FL 32404
Phone: (904) 763-7689. Fax: (904) 763-5396

Hufeland Klinik for Holistic Immunotherapy
Wolgang Woeppel, MD
Bismarckstrasse 16
D-6990 Bad Mergentheim
Phone: +49-7931-8185 or +49-7931-7082

Other resources which include fever therapy

Klinik Friedenweiler
Professor Dr. Albert Landsberger
Kurhausweg 2
D-7829 Friedeweiler 2, Germany
Phone: 07651 208-0 Fax: 07651 208-116

Veramed Klinik am Wendelstein
D-8204 Brannenburg/Obb., Germany
Phone: 08034/3020 or 08034/302750
Fax: 08034/7835

Information on fever therapy and other noninvasive therapies is available from:

Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy (FACT)

P.O.Box 1242
Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10113
Phone: (212) 741-2790


P.O.Box 215
200 East Lancaster Avenue
Wynnwood, Pennsylvania 19096
Phone (215) 642-4810

Contact person: Ruth Sackman.

Books referenced in composing this article

Ralph Moss: The Cancer Industry
Ralph Moss: Cancer Therapy
Richard Walters: Options. The Alternative Cancer Therapy Book.
John M. Fink: Third Opinion.

For reviews of most of these books, see CancerGuide’s article on books about alternative therapies

This CancerGuide Page By Matti Narkia. © Matti Narkia
Last Updated: April 19, 1996