By Alan Cantwell, Jr., M.D.
Despite a century of cancer research the cause of breast cancer remains unknown.
Age, diet, stress, hormone factors, genetic predisposition,
and cancer viruses are all suspected as possible causative factors,
but totally ignored are infectious bacteria which have been implicated
in breast cancer and other forms of cancer.
A century ago when major diseases like tuberculosis,
leprosy, and syphilis
were discovered to be bacterial (not viral) infections, many physicians
suspected bacteria might also cause cancer. At the close of the nineteenth
century (when the science of microbiology was in its infancy), many
different microbes were cultured from cancer. Variously called "cancer
coccidia," "sporozoons" and "cancer parasites,"
a few of these microbes produced cancer tumours when injected into
But many did not, and most doctors finally assessed these cancer germs
as laboratory "contaminants" or as "secondary invader
microbes" that infect the tissue after the cancer is already
The idea of a cancer parasite was finally dismissed in 1919 by noted American
pathologist James Ewing. In his popular textbook, Neoplastic Diseases, he
"Few competent observers consider it (the parasitic theory) as a possible explanation
in cancer." In Ewing's opinion, cancer did not act like an infection.
concluded that microbes couldn't possibly cause it. He wrote: "The general facts of
the genesis of tumours are strongly against the possibility of a parasitic
origin."1 Subsequently, few doctors dared to contradict Ewing by investigating bacteria in
Nevertheless, during the 1920s a few persistent physicians like pathologist John Nuzum
of the University of Illinois College of Medicine; surgeon Michael Scott from
Butte, Montana; and obstetrician James Young of Edinburgh, Scotland, continued to publish
research showing that bacteria were implicated in breast cancer and other forms of
Working independently of one another, all three researchers cultured unusual bacteria
from breast cancer, as well as from breast cancer tumours in mice. The peculiar growth of
the "pleomorphic" cancer germ defied the established laws of microbiology by its
ability to change shape and form, depending on how it was cultured in the
well as the amount of oxygen supplied for growth and the age of the
At first, the germ was barely visible as tiny round coccal
forms. Later, these cocci
enlarged into rod-shaped bacteria, which could connect together to form chains resembling
a fungus. Small cocci could also enlarge into larger yeast and fungal-like spore
Nuzum grew his "micrococcus" from 38 of 41 early breast
cancers, and from the
cancerous lymph nodes and metastatic tumours resulting from spread of the cancer to other
parts of the body.2,3 During his 6 years of intensive bacteriological
study, he learned
the microbe could pass through a filter designed to hold back bacteria, indicating that
some forms of the microbe were as small as the size of some viruses. With special stains
he detected these small round coccoid forms within the breast cancer tumour
Although Nuzum couldn't produce cancer tumours in mice, he was able to induce breast
cancer tumours in 2 of 5 dogs injected with the microbe.
In a dangerous human experiment he injected the groin of a 70-year-old man with the
bacteria he cultured from breast cancer. After 62 injections over an 18-week
skin cancer formed in the man's groin. This experiment showed that breast cancer microbes
were also capable of producing a different kind of cancer, such as skin cancer.3
Young found his microbe in 16 cases of breast cancer, and in two mice with breast
cancer. He identified "spore forms" and clumped "spore balls" in
microscopic sections prepared from the mouse tumours.4,5
Scott described three stages in the life cycle of his
parasite: rod forms, spore or
coccus-like forms, and large spore-sacs resembling a fungus.6,7 He treated cancer patients
with an effective antiserum against these microbes, and spent the rest of his life trying
to alert his colleagues to the infectious cause of cancer. But the antagonism of the
medical profession to Scott's cancer parasites and his antiserum was
overwhelming, and he
died a forgotten man.
During the last half of this century cancer microbe research was barely kept alive by a
quartet of women, now all dead. The published research of Virginia Wuerthele-Caspe
Livingston-Wheeler (a physician), Eleanor Alexander-Jackson (a
Diller (a cellular biologist) and Florence Seibert (a chemist) provides indisputable
evidence that bacteria are implicated in cancer.
Livingston, who never let the male-dominated medical profession intimidate
independently discovered the cancer microbe in the late 1940s and never stopped talking
about it until her death in 1990, at the age of 84. Aided by
supplied the bacteriologic expertise, they became an unstoppable research team.8-12 The
two women found a special stain (the acid-fast stain) that allowed the microbe to be
recognised in culture and within the cancer tumour. Like the researchers back in the
1920s, they confirmed the microbe was filterable; and electron microscopic photos provided
further proof that the filterable forms were indeed viral-size. Livingston named the
microbe "Progenitor cryptocides" (Greek for the hidden-killer), which angered
cancer experts, microbiologists, and American Cancer Society
spokespersons, all of whom
insisted the cancer microbe did not exist!
In the 1950s Irene Diller of the Institute for Cancer Research at Fox
Chase, Philadelphia, discovered fungus-like microbes in cancer cells. Joining forces with the
Livingston team, Diller worked with specially bred mice with a proven cancer
injecting them with microbes cultured from breast cancer and other tumours, she was able
to more than double the cancer incidence of the mice.13
She injected healthy animals with cancer bacteria. When cancer tumours developed she
successfully cultured the microbe from the tumours - thus proving that these bacteria were
implicated in the production of cancer. Utilising Livingston's methods, Diller also grew
the microbe from the blood of cancer patients.
In the early 1960s Florence Seibert became so impressed with Diller's research that she
quit retirement to help prove that bacteria cause cancer. Back in the 1920s Seibert
devised a method to make intravenous transfusions safe by eliminating contaminating
ubiquitous bacteria. Later, as one of the foremost authorities investigating the chemistry
and immunology of the acid-fast bacteria that cause tuberculosis, she perfected the skin
test for tuberculosis that has been used worldwide ever since. In 1938, she was awarded
the famed Trudeau Medal, the highest prize given to tuberculosis research.
Experiments conducted by Seibert and her research team showed these acid-fast and
TB-like cancer microbes were not laboratory contaminants because they were able to isolate
bacteria from every piece of tumour (and every acute leukemic blood) they studied.14
In her autobiography, Pebbles on the Hill of a Scientist,
published privately in 1968, she wrote: "One of the most interesting
properties of these bacteria is their great pleomorphism. For example,
they readily change their shape from round cocci, to elongated rods,
and even to thread-like filaments depending upon what medium they
grow on and how long they grow. This may be one of the reasons why
they have been overlooked or considered to be heterogenous contaminants...
And even more interesting than this is the fact that these bacteria
have a filterable form in their life cycle; that is, that they can
become so small that they pass through bacterial filters which hold
back bacteria. This is what viruses do, and is one of the main criteria
of a virus, separating them from bacteria. But the viruses also will
not live on artificial media like these bacteria do. They need body
tissue to grow on. Our filterable form, however, can be recovered
again on ordinary artificial bacterial media and will grow on these.
This should interest the virus workers very much and should cause
them to ask themselves how many of the viruses may not be filterable
forms of our bacteria."
Seibert's provocative papers, some emanating from the prestigious Annals of the New
York Academy of Sciences, should have caused a stir. But with the quartet slowly closing
in on the infectious cause of cancer, funds from previous supporters (like the American
Cancer Society) suddenly dried up. All cancer microbe researchers eventually discovered
that studying cancer bacteria was the kiss of death as far as funding was
without adequate funding, this type of cancer research was made more
But coming from thirty years of research into the acid-fast bacteria that cause
tuberculosis, Seibert knew that the discovery of a pleomorphic and acid-fast microbe in
cancer was tremendously important. She fervently believed that knowledge of this microbe
would be instrumental in developing a possible vaccine and more effective antibiotic
therapy against cancer. In Pebbles she confided: "It is very difficult to understand
the lack of interest, instead of great enthusiasm, that should follow such
results, a lack
of certainty not in the tradition of good science. The contrast between the progress made
in tuberculosis where we know the cause, where we have good general diagnostic
where we have a vaccine and effective antibiotic controls, and that made in cancer with
the millions invested, is very striking. Some dedicated scientists should indeed find it
rewarding to confirm or deny these painstaking and time-consuming
experiments, for the
sake of establishing the first necessary step in the important problem of the etiology of
Like the other women, Seibert observed the virus-like forms of the cancer microbe
within the nucleus of the cancer cells. She theorised this infection could disrupt and
transform nuclear genetic material that could lead to malignant change. Even though cancer
microbes might appear to be simple and common microbes, their ability to infiltrate the
nucleus of cells meant they were far from harmless.
In 1990, at the age of 92, Florence Seibert was inducted into the National Women's Hall
of Fame, along with Barbara Jordan (Government), Billie Jean King
(Athletics) and Margaret
Bourke-White (Arts). When she died the following year her passage was noted in Time and
People magazines, and in major newspapers like The Los Angeles Times. All the obituaries
mentioned her contributions to the safety of intravenous fluids and her great achievement
with the TB skin test. But not a word was written about her cancer microbe
which she devoted the last thirty years of her life.
Each year 190,000 American women are diagnosed with breast
cancer. And the prognosis is
still dismal for women whose breast cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and
the medical establishment remains adamantly and irrationally opposed to cancer microbe
research. It is perhaps understandable from an economic viewpoint that the medical
profession would not welcome a proposed infectious cause of cancer that would challenge
the highly lucrative multibillion-dollar cancer industry.
Physicians confidently ignore cancer bacteria because they have been carefully taught
in medical school that there are no significant bacteria detectible in
cancer. They still
believe that cancer microbes represent contaminant bacteria or bacteria of no
significance. Thus, published reports of cancer microbe research are rarely cited and the
subject remains virtually unknown.
The idea of a microbe with virus, bacteria, and fungal-like stages is also anathema to
most doctors. However, over the past several decades the study of cell-wall deficient
bacteria and "mycoplasma-like" bacteria (which are both bacterial and
viral-like) indicates that microbes indeed have a complex life cycle. In 1919, when Ewing
offered his damning opinion of cancer parasites, none of these microbiologic peculiarities
were even recognised!
In some instances, cancer microbe research appears to be deliberately
suppressed. For example, the National Cancer Institute on its "cancer Facts" web page
(http://oncolink.upenn.edu/pdg/600911.html) informs viewers about Virginia Livingston and
states: "There is no scientific evidence to confirm her theories of cancer causation
or to justify her treatments." Obviously, this official judgement is a blatant lie
because, as we have noted, Livingston's discoveries have been confirmed by many competent
In addition, Livingston has written three books on the cancer
microbe: Cancer: A New
Breakthrough (1972), The Microbiology of Cancer (1977), and The Conquest of Cancer
(1984).15-17 More recent books on bacteria in cancer include Alan Cantwell's The Cancer
Microbe (1990) and Can Bacteria Cause Cancer? (1997) by David J Hess.18,19
Using acid-fast staining techniques, bacteria have been identified in breast
cancer, lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma (the so-called "gay cancer" of
AIDS) and other forms
of cancer.20-22 Figure 1 shows bacteria identified in breast cancer, indicating that such
microbes are already present within the tumour and are not laboratory
Microbes have also been identified in "normal" and cancer-free breast tissue
removed at the time of surgery. This suggests that the bacteria are not "secondary
invaders" because they are identifiable in areas before the tissue has been invaded
by cancer.20 Figure 2 shows the appearance of a microbe cultured from the same breast
cancer. Note how the size and shape and appearance of the microbes within the tumour
1) approximates the appearance of the bacteria cultured from the metatastic spread of the
tumour to the skin (Fig. 2).
The current lack of knowledge about the cause of advanced breast cancer has resulted in
the recommendation of some very expensive and death-defying treatments for this horrendous
disease. Bone marrow transplants, which carry a 5% death rate, are being proposed as a
routine treatment, at a minimal cost of $100,000 per patient.
As described in Karen Stabiner's To Dance With the
Devil: The New War on Breast Cancer
(1997), the procedure is not pretty.23 First, a catheter is placed in a woman's chest to
deliver the drugs. A surgical treatment is then performed to scrape out bone marrow from
her pelvis, followed by 7 days of growth hormone injections. Then starts days of
intravenous chemotherapy that can cause kidney and bladder damage. A catheter is placed in
the bladder, followed by a round of intravenous BCNU, or carmustine, a drug that makes a
woman feel like she is falling down drunk. Patients become sleepy, sullen,
disoriented, agitated, and angry. Loss of bowel control and vomiting are
common. After all this, women
are put into isolation because the white count drops precipitously, making her vulnerable
to all sorts of infections. There may be inexplicable spiking fevers and
rashes, and the
inevitable loss of hair. After three weeks, patients are allowed to go home where they are
told to watch for, "interstitial pneumonitis," a potentially fatal after-effect
if not diagnosed and treated early.
Bone marrow transplant for breast cancer is not
guaranteed, nor is it considered a cure. Women have been known to die of cancer three months after the
that some patients do not respond to chemotherapy no matter how high the
Even with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, the cost of dying of cancer is not
cheap. At the price patients are paying, physicians should not have the luxury of being
ignorant about cancer microbe research, particularly when these microbes can be identified
in cancer tumours.
With 40,000 American women dying annually from breast
cancer, it is time medical
science re-evaluated the parasite of cancer that James Ewing so casually dismissed in
1919. Perhaps if he hadn't been so adamant about cancer microbe research, his colleagues
might have been able to do more to save him when he himself eventually died of "the
- Ewing J: The parasitic theory. In, Ewing J (Ed): Neoplastic Diseases
(Ed1). Saunders, Philadelphia, 1919, pp 114-126.
- Nuzum JW: A critical study of an organism associated with a transplantable
carcinoma of the white mouse. Surg Gynecol Obstet 33:167-175, 1921.
- Nuzum JW: The experimental production of metastasizing carcinoma
in the breast of the dog and primary epithelioma in man by repeated
inoculation of a micrococcus isolated from human breast cancer. Surg
Gynecol Obstet 11:343-352, 1925.
- Young J: Description of an organism obtained from carcinomatous
growths. Edinburgh MedJ (New Series) 27:212-221, 1921.
- Young J: An address on a new outlook on cancer: Irritiation and
infection. Brit Med J, Jan 10, 1925, pp 60-64.
- Scott MJ: The parasitic origin of carcinoma. Northwest Med 24:162-166,
- Scott MJ: More about the parasitic origin of malignant epithelial
growths. Northwest Med 25:492-498, 1925.
- Wuerthele Caspe (Livingston) V, Alexander-Jackson
E, Anderson JA,
et al: Cultural properties and pathogenicity of certain microorganisms
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- Wuerthele-Caspe Livingston V, Alexander-Jackson E: An experimental
biologic approach to the treatment of neoplastic disease. J Amer Med
Women's Asssn 20:858-866, 1965.
- Wuerthele Caspe Livingston V, Livingston AM: Demonstration of Progenitor
Cryptocides in the blood of patients with collagen and neoplastic
diseases. Trans NY Acad Sci 34(5):433-453, 1972.
- Wuerthele Caspe Livingston V, Livingston AM: Some
and biochemical properties of Progenitor cyptocides. Trans NY Acad
Sci 36(6):569-582, 1974.
- Alexander-Jackson E: A specific type of microorganism isolated from
animal and human cancer: Bacteriology of the organism. Growth 18:37-51,
- Diller IC: Growth and morphologic variability of
acid-fast organisms isolated from mouse, rat, and human malignant
tissues. Growth 26:181-209, 1962.
- Seibert FB, Yeomans F, Baker JA, et al: Bacteria in
NY Acad Sci 34(6):504-533, 1972.
- Wuerthele Caspe Livingston V: Cancer, A New
Breakthrough. Nash Publishing Corp, Los Angeles, 1972.
- Livingston-Wheeler VWC, Wheeler OW: The Microbiology of
Livingston Wheeler Medical Clinic Publication, San Diego, 1977.
- Livingston-Wheeler VWC, Addeo EG: The Conquest of
New York, 1984.
- Cantwell AR Jr: The Cancer Microbe: The Hidden Killer in
Cancer, AIDS, and Other Immune Diseases. Aries Rising Press, Los
- Hess DJ: Can Bacteria Cause Cancer? Alternative Medicine Confronts
Big Science. New York University Press, New York, 1997.
- Cantwell AR Jr, Kelso DW: Microbial findings in cancer of the breast
and in their metastases to the skin. J Dermatol Surg Oncol 7:483-491,
- Cantwell AR Jr: Histologic observations of variably acid-fast coccoid
forms suggestive of cell wall deficient bacteria in Hodgkin's
A report of four cases. Growth 45:168-187, 1981.
- Cantwell AR Jr: Kaposi's sarcoma and variably acid-fast bacteria
in vivo in two homosexual men. Cutis 32:58-64,68, 1983.
- Stabiner K: To Dance with the Devil: The New War on Breast
Delacourt Press, New York, 1997.