G.B. was a master mariner (sailor), age 32. When he began receiving Coley's Toxins in 1926, he had only one leg.
Seven years earlier, while on a voyage to England, he'd been thrown against a hatch and bruised his lower left leg. The injured spot never healed and caused him pain over the years. After a long and complicated medical course, histiocytic lymphoma—a form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma—was eventually discovered in the leg. (This disease was formerly known as reticulum cell sarcoma.)
G.B.'s left leg was amputated mid-thigh in September 1925. The drastic measure reflected the desperate attempt to prevent the cancer from spreading. In the pre-chemotherapy era, once a lymphoma spread, little could be done to save the patient.
Despite the amputation, the cancer had already sown its seeds beyond G.B.'s leg. Three months later, on December 12, a nodule was found just above G.B.'s belly button. It was biopsied and verified to be cancer. A month later, two large tumors were found on the amputated stump of his leg—the size of a fist. In addition, a two-inch mass was found in the left groin. G.B.'s outlook was dismal.
Coley's Toxins therapy
On January 5, 1926, realizing G.B. would soon die, Drs. Christian and Palmer (at the Marine Hospital in Stapleton, Staten Island) began injecting Coley's Toxins into alternate gluteal regions (i.e. the buttocks). Dr. Palmer also gave a few injections directly into one of the tumors, causing violent chills that lasted 15 minutes, and high fever between 104°F and 106°F. But after 4 to 6 hours, G.B. would feel fine.
After three weeks of injections, G.B.'s tumors were measurably smaller, softer and lighter in color. The groin mass had disappeared. But he began to feel extremely weak—apparently from the effects of his body absorbing large quantities of necrotic tumor tissue. Because of this weakness, his doctors stopped the injections.
A Failing Therapy
Unfortunately, the cessation of injections led to a resurgence of tumors. By March, there were three small "vesicles" on the leg stump. The belly-button growth was now the size of a large lemon.
The doctors resumed the injections directly into the tumor on his leg stump, but then had to stop again.
In May and June, tumors began sprouting everywhere—under the skin of his abdomen, on his right collar bone, on his neck bones, skull, and multiple tumors on his scalp. The tumor in his stump had advanced rapidly. The cancer, along with some edema, now caused the stump to measure 31 inches around (almost 3 feet!). A foul discharge spewed from it.
Like Mrs. Gruver (who had metastatic cervical cancer) and Mrs. G.L. (who had metastatic ovarian cancer), Mr. G.B. was a hopeless case the moment his cancer had metastasized in an era before chemotherapy. Only now, G.B.'s sorry state was accentuated by the frightening number of tumors.
Why One Shouldn't Give Up Too Soon With Immunotherapy
At this point, almost any doctor would've thrown in the towel and conceded the therapy wasn't working. Drs. Christian and Palmer had injected strong doses of Coley's Toxins over a period of 5 months. Despite their perseverance, the cancer was inexorably annexing G.B.'s body. Wouldn't it have been more humane to let the cancer take him, instead of putting him through chills and high fevers—all the while having him endure the mental horror of lesions popping up all over his body?
Thankfully, they persisted, injecting large daily doses right into the stump.
Three months later, the stump had dramatically shrunk in size, and had almost healed. The lemon-sized tumor above the belly-button and on the collar bone had disappeared. So had the tumors on his scalp.
Galvanized by the unbelievable turnaround, his doctors kept up the injections. By November 22, G.B. was in excellent health. He'd gained 30 pounds over the year. The stump now measured 17 inches around (instead of 31). The abdomen tumors were gone.
By December 5, 1926—almost one year after beginning Coley's Toxins—G.B. was apparently cured.
Drs. Christian and Palmer at the Marine Hospital discharged him, then reported the case to Dr. William Coley, who advised them to resume the injections to completely eliminate the cancer. And so they did—for another year, until December 7, 1927.
Time, the Ultimate Proof of a Cure
G.B. was presented before the New York Surgical Society by Dr. Coley on March 13, 1929, in the "best of health," weighing 140 pounds. The stump was normal and he wore an artificial limb. Dr. Coley followed him for several years, and he remained cancer free. G.B. was last seen in January 1953. He had had no illnesses, except for the occasional cold—27 years after toxin therapy.
Just like in the cases of Mrs. Gruver and Mrs. G.L., 100 years ago, Coley's Toxins had taught G.B.'s immune system to suppress widely-disseminated cancer for many decades.