Coley’s Toxins

Immunotherapy Treatment

Coley’s toxin is a mixture of toxins of killed bacteria. Named after William Coley, the surgical oncologist who kick-started the field of modern anti-cancer immunotherapy. Renewed interest in Coley’s toxin has now re-emerged at Biotherapy International due to their potential applications in the development of personalized anti-cancer vaccines.

History of Coley’s Toxins

Dr William B Coley was a surgical oncologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Although the link between overwhelming bacterial infections and seemingly spontaneous regression of cancer had already been suspected, Coley was the first one to describe the process of activating a patient’s immune system with bacterial toxins to mimic sepsis induced by live bacteria to treat cancer. 

Coley’s original idea was based on his observation of one patient with resistant incurable sarcoma of the skin, which regressed completely following a severe infection with streptococcus bacteria. He designed his toxin using a sterile mixture of different types of bacteria (Streptococcus pyogenes and Serratia marcescens) to induce similar therapeutic effects using a safe toxin.

This mixture, now known as Coley’s toxins, caused fever and shivering that were clinically similar to the signs of true infection. He then noted that some patients responded with complete tumor regression. Unfortunately, this 120-year-old important observation was ignored by the large pharmaceutic industries that were much more interested to introduce the use of patentable chemotherapeutic agents.

Use of Coley’s Toxins

Coley’s toxins are usually administered systemically to activate a patient’s immune system in a non-specific fashion. This is usually associated with shaking chills and fevers. A simpler, promising, and safe approach is to mix cryopreserved or fresh cancer cells lysates with Coley’s toxin, and using such a mixture as an anti-cancer vaccine. 

Similar and even better treatment can be accomplished by injecting Coley’s toxin directly into one or more visible cancer metastases, provided it can be technically feasible and safe. This turns the existing cancer lesion into an in-situ vaccine. In both cases, maximizing the immunotherapeutic effects of such anti-cancer vaccination can be accomplished by additional activation of the immune system in parallel.

Coley’s toxin is available at Biotherapy International. However, due to regulatory restrictions, the systemic use of Coley’s toxin, or its use in the preparation of anti-cancer vaccination can only be accomplished in one of our satellite clinics abroad.

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