In its recent Outlook on Cancer Immunotherapy, the respectable journal Nature features an article that talks about MBVax, a Vancouver-based company that “produces cancer vaccine for compassionate use to countries where government regulators allowed its importation and use”.

Mmmh…

MBVax does not have the permission to give their cancer vaccines to patients in US, EU and other regulated countries, but when sneaked to patients in other parts of the world it works [the company says].

The cure has all it needs to be a perfect story. It was initially formulated by the Harvard MD William Coley at the end of 1800s, in desperate need to rescue his parents from sarcomas. The “Coley fluid” is a mixture of live and dead bacteria that should wake up the patient immune system to stimulates the clearance of their tumors.

But research on this vaccine was not pursued because new, aggressive therapies like irradiation and chemo pushed Coley’s vaccine out of favor.

Bad chemo. Bad!

William Coley (center) – Wikipadia

It turns out that this Nature article is a well presented copy-and-paste version of the MBVax website.

Thought there are no publications about the efficacy of the preparation, the journalist interviews Donald H. MacAdam, the company CEO (and, of course, book author), who ensures that the therapy works.

70% of patients receiving the MBVax vaccine had their tumors shrank, and 20% entered a complete remission phase.

There are no peer-reviews article of clinical trial that support what MacAdam says. On the other hand, logically, on the website of the MBVax we find a long bibliography that should justify the company interest in this therapy. Where did I see that before…?

MacAdam book - amazone.com
MacAdam book – amazone.com

Nature knows it’s reporting on not-exactly-rocket-science, so it does write that these are unpublished data. In the middle of the 23rd paragraph.

But the best has yet to come: while chemo and radiotherapy are easy and standardized – the article says -, MacAdam vaccines require “careful calibration on each patient”. This is a frequent argument made by people in need to justify their no-sense medical intervention: “It has to be tailored on you”.

Within legal obligation, MBVax writes what it wants. But the fact that Nature gives visibility to a bench of untested medical evidence is honestly disturbing. The article did not contain a single reference that supports vaccine efficacy, rather it cite only the successful cases, a typically commercial method.

I know Nature makes little effort to communicate this, but Outlook are sponsored inserts, where informative content might crash with commercial purposes. Fine. I don’t find it scandalous, keeping that a vague shade of research underlines the science presented.

Considering the energy that Nature puts in contrasting Stamina, an italian company that entered a regulatory loop to “cure” terminal patients with obscure infusions, I expected that a similar rigor had to apply for a company like MBVax, which similarly has no solid evidence to justify its interventions.

I was wrong.

15 Responses

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  3. Hi Riccardo, Sorry but you are incorrect. If you read my new book “The Reinvention of Coley’s Toxins” you will understand. I’ll even send you a complimentary inscribed copy. Seriously. Don

  4. Please research before publishing such stories. I have a mother who took Coleys from MBVax and was cured! So we are dumb now?

    1. You said, “I expected that a similar rigor had to apply for a company like MBVax, which similarly has no solid evidence to justify its interventions.” What is the basis for you to think that there is no solid evidence to justify its interventions? You mean because there was no clinical trials? You know, there are such things as “pre-clinical studies” that people/companies do before clinical trials. MBVax has done that, according to the book. If you want to write a critical note on the company, I think you should at least read the book by MacAdam first. From what you wrote, it seems to me, as the reader of that book, that you have not read the book. Regardless, when trying to blame something for not being thorough, I think you should also do a thorough research on your end before hastily claim that the research or the use of Coley’s Fluids is not respectable.

      1. Also, I realize that you wrote this in 2014, whereas the book I’m talking about (The Reinvention of Coley’s Toxins) was published only in 2018. So there was no way you could have read that book before writing this.
        So apologies on saying you should have read the book first before writing.

  5. Also I was curious- you said, “But the best has yet to come: while chemo and radiotherapy are easy and standardized – the article says -, MacAdam vaccines require “careful calibration on each patient”. This is a frequent argument made by people in need to justify their no-sense medical intervention: “It has to be tailored on you”

    Here’s what I think-people are different. To me, to some extent, it’s weirder that a drug should be prescribed at a uniform dose to everyone. If not for the practicality and pricing, to me it seems personalized dosing is more optimal.
    Even in drinking coffee, each person is different. While one person may stay awake with one cup, another person may need five cups for the same effect. So I’m genuinely curious why you find the idea of personalized dosing requirement so objectionable as a scientist.

    1. Hi there,
      thank you for your comment.

      As noted by you in other comments, this is indeed a rather old article. I reviewed the content and came to the conclusion that – based on the information I had available at the time – all that it contains remains accurate. I have – however – failed to properly emphasize the fact that the original article describing Coley’s Toxins and the small biotech that is developing a cure with (a new version of) it, was featured in the Outlook section of the magazine. Outlooks are sponsored magazine features where a particular topic is covered, and advertisement if placed accordingly. That certainly doesn’t fell under the editorial rigor that may apply to other sections of the same journal. I should have made that more clear when I wrote this article in 2014.

      Overall, I think the post contains points that remain valid, based on info I had at the time. I do not plan to read the aforementioned book.

      Best
      Riccardo

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