What is Coley’s Toxins Cancer Treatment?

Surgical oncologist and pioneer of cancer immunotherapy, Dr. William Coley developed the

Coley’s toxins cancer treatment

in the 19th century. The technique involves bringing to use a mixture of killed species of bacteria like Serratia marcescens and Streptococcus pyogenes. It is based on the observation that regression of cancer is closely related to infection.

How Coley’s Toxins Cancer Treatment Works?

There are several ideas proposed to explain the mixed results this remedy achieved in the past against cancer. They are:

Pathogen Associated Molecular Pattern (PAMP):

According to a research study carried out in 2008, it was found that the risk of cancer is lowered following common infections. The explanation provided is that the substances released by bacteria, viruses and fungus during infection known as PAMP cause activation of certain dendritic cells.

Unmethlyated CpG motif is a PAMP found in the DNA of the bacteria. It has been found to generate strong response from T helper cells of the immune system. These cells are known to play an important role in optimizing the capabilities of the natural protection system of our body.

Dendritic Cells:

When the toxin is given to the patient in the form of Coley’s fluid, a high fever develops. As a response to this state, the dendritic cells of the immune system are activated. These cells are known to provide antigens to other immune system cells.

Antigens are molecules which on entering the body cause the production of antibodies. These substances in turn destroy the antigens which are recognized as foreign bodies and potential threats by the immune system.


It is believed that this substance produced by the two pathogen bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Streptococcus pyogenes, is the active ingredient of the toxin. It has been found to be effective in successfully treating the progressive and recurring condition thromboangiitis obliterans where the small and medium sized arteries and veins of the hands and feet develop swelling and clotting of blood.


Fever is considered as a pre-condition for the effectiveness of the toxin. It is because only in such a state the body has both high temperature and enhanced activities of the immune system in contrast to hyperthermia (where there is only raise in body temperature).

In such a highly activate state of the natural defense mechanism, the macrophages cells can be brought to defense mode in large numbers. These cells have the ability to engulf and digest foreign threats.

But, they do not exist in defense mode if there is no presence of enemy in the body. Instead, they exist in repair mode. It is a known fact that cancer cells are adept at remaining latent. If macrophagus cells exist in repair mode for long, they in turn promote the growth of cancer cells.

Tumor Necrosis Factor and Interleukin:

Lipopolysaccharide in the toxin is believed to be another active component which induces fever. In such state, the activity of an immune system cell type, the lymphocyte, is increased. This development leads to the production of a substance called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). It causes apoptosis or natural death of cancer cells.


The toxin suppresses the development of new blood vessels. As a result, the tumor cells are deprived of the pathways through which they receive essential nutrients for survival and growth.

Where is Coley’s Fluid for Cancer Treatment Available?

  • Germany is the only country where this remedy is tried on patients as the German doctors are entitled to therapy freedom.
  • This legal right allows practicing doctors to try experimental medications which are believed to be effective for the patients as per the medical knowledge of the health professional.
  • The production of Coley’s fluid drug has decreased as it did not get re-approval from the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices after 1990.


Coley’s toxins cancer treatment

is not available in the United States. The prescription of this method is restricted to only clinical trails post 1963 as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigned it a “new drug” status by that year.

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