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The Cancer Bacteria Forum

An interview with Dr. Alan Cantwell MD
by Ron Falcone
10-28-06

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Alan Cantwell has investigated the phenomenon of cancer bacteria for over thirty years. A graduate of New York Medical College, doctor Cantwell completed a residency program in dermatology at Long Beach Veteran's Administration Hospital in Long Beach, CA and then practiced in the dermatology department of Kaiser-Permanente in Hollywood, California, from 1965 until his retirement in 1994. Dr. Cantwell is the author of more than thirty published papers on breast cancer, lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, Hodgkin's disease, lupus, scleroderma, AIDS, and other immunological diseases. These papers have appeared in many peer reviewed journals, including Growth, International Journal of Dermatology, Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology and Archives of Dermatology. He is also a prolific author (see Aries Rising Press for a list of his titles).

This interview was conducted by Ron Falcone on October 24, 2006

The Interview

CBH: Hi Dr. Cantwell and thanks very much for joining us today at the Cancer Bacteria Homepage. It is an honor having you visit with us. To begin, can you tell us how long you have been a physician and what your specialty was before becoming interested in cancer bacteria research?

Cantwell : I received my MD degree from New York Medical College in 1959. After an internship at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, I served as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps for two years in post-war Korea, and later began a three-year dermatology residency program at the VA in Long Beach, CA, in 1962. In the fall of 1963 I read a medical report concerning tuberculosis-type infections of the skin following prescribed injections of vaccines and antibiotics. This quickly led me to investigate unusual cases of "panniculitis" (an inflammation of the fat) in several of my VA patients who had injections. I was able to show these patients were infected with peculiar and unusual "acid-fast" bacteria. This was reported in The Archives of Dermatology in 1966. My panniculitis work segued into scleroderma research where I was also able to show acid-fast, TB-like bacteria in this dreadful disease, currently considered a disease "of unknown etiology." When my first case of acid-fast bacteria in scleroderma was reported in The Archives, also in 1966, I learned about Virginia Livingston MD, who first reported similar bacteria in scleroderma back in 1947 in the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey.

CBH: And when did you first become interested in cancer bacteria research? Was your initial interest in cancer bacteria related to skin diseases?

Cantwell: When I first met with Virginia (Livingston) in San Diego, I learned of her many years of research into acid-fast "pleomorphic bacteria" that she and her associates had discovered and studied in every case of cancer that they investigated.

CBH: As a young physician, were you initially skeptical of the idea of a cancer bacterium? If so, what convinced you that there might be something to the theory?

Cantwell: I never believed in my wildest dreams that I would ever study the bacterial cause of cancer. It was inconceivable to me that scientists could have failed to recognize a microscopically visible infectious bacterial agent in cancer. I soon learned that Virginia and her colleagues suffered greatly for their belief and research into the bacterial cause of cancer. For her whole life, Virginia was marginalized and condemned by her colleagues for her attempts to treat cancer patients with vaccines, antibiotics, diet, and supplements.

CBH: Were you surprised at your findings from a microbiological standpoint? What I mean is, did your findings clash with the known tenets of microbiology? And if so, can you tell us briefly, how?

Cantwell : I must admit that I never studied bacteria in cancer until the mid-1970s. There were two reasons for this. First, I thought that the scleroderma work would be confirmed by other dermatolgists and scientists, and that I would be content to have discovered a cause of that disease. But after a half-century, it is sad to relate that Virginia and I are the only two physicians who have ever presented evidence for this. Secondly, I worked for an HMO and I didn't want to be regarded as a "quack" like Virginia had been labeled, so I avoided the cancer bacteria controvery as long as I could. However, in the mid-1970s I found pleomorphic bacteria in sarcoidosis, and also in a lymphoma that appeared in one of my patients with sarcoidosis. I was amazed to see how easy it was to detect these bacteria in sarcoidosis and lymphoma, and in these two diseases also "of unknown etiology." Once I realized that Virginia was so correct in her declarations of a cancer bacterium, my research progressed rapidly in studying other forms of cancer, as well as immune diseases, like lupus erythematosus. At that point I finally had attained the courage of my convictions, and was willing to take a stand along with Virginia.

CBH: Dr. Cantwell, much has been made about bacterial pleomorphism, and you have been one of that phenomena's most knowledgeable investigators. Can you tell us just how pleomorphism might have, and still does, create misunderstanding and confusion among researchers?

Cantwell : One cannot begin to understand and recognize bacteria in cancer and certain other immunologic diseases unless one has a little knowledge of bacterial pleomorphism the idea that bacteria can exist in more than one form. I have written about (and illustrated) acid-fast pleomorphic bacteria. My most important contribution to the etiology of cancer was to demonstrate how these bacteria appear microscopically in cancer tissue. Unfortunately, these bacteria in tissue are ignored or are unrecognized and/or are dismissed by scientists are non-bacteria. Fortunately, these bacteria in cancer can be viewed by interested persons on the Internet in a series of my papers posted at the www.joimr.org website. There, one can click on color photos of these bacteria and visualize them full-screen in size. These papers also carry an extensive bibliography of dozens of scientists and doctors worldwide who have reported similar bacteria. The fact that this great body of work has been ignored or overlooked or condemned is surely the biggest tragedy in modern medicine, at least in my view.

CBH: As a follow up, would it be fair to say that depending on how microbes are grown, fed, and when they're observed, mistakes in identifying them can still be made---even with today's biotechnologies?

Cantwell: Microbiologists are terribly concerned about precise identifications of microbes associated with cancer. But at the same time these bacteria are thought not to exist or to play any role in the etiology of cancer. My belief is that these cancer microbes have to be recognized first, and only then can scientists quibble about exactly what to name them. Also in the laboratory, one TB-like microbe we isolated from scleroderma became more and more fungus-like as it aged in the lab, and experts in fungal identification were unable to precisely classify the microbe at that stage of development. I have also observed on one occasion a scleroderma bacterium that changed species back and forth, depending on the lab media used for growth.

CBH: Do you believe that knowledge about a cancer bacterium can help in achieving a better understanding of AIDS and AIDS-related treatments?

Cantwell: Also unrecognized and unaccepted in AIDS is my research showing that cancer microbes are present in AIDS -- from the very beginning of the disease, the so-called "lymphadenopathy syndrome" up to death when these bacteria have been shown in many organs at autopsy. In addition, cancer bacteria play a role in the development of Kaposi's sarcoma, the most common cancer in HIV infected men. These papers can also be found on PubMed.* It may eventually prove that this unrecognized bacterial infection in AIDS does more harm that HIV does.

CBH: Do you believe that if a room full of orthodox, traditional cancer scientists agreed to work alongside you and were genuinely open minded to the knowledge you have acquired, they would eventually observe the same phenomena and come to the same conclusions you have?

Cantwell: It is sad for me to say that the minds of medical doctors are totally closed on the subject of the cancer microbe. For more than four decades I have been unable to convince any physician that my research is important and should be studied by others. On the other hand, I have never had any physician present any evidence that the cancer microbe work is wrong.

CBH: Dr. Cantwell, if there is indeed such a thing as a cancer-causing bacterium, then how can it be that the most clever scientists in the world have failed to see it, or continue to be ignoring it? Is that really possible or admittedly too fantastic to accept?

Cantwell: The identification of simple-to-see cancer microbes would cause havoc in the cancer treatment industry. It would also be the biggest embarrassment to befall modern medicine. It's the equivalent of trying to convince scientists that the world is flat!

CBH: Can you tell us a little about your relationship with Virginia Livingston? A little about her and what she was like?

Cantwell: Virginia was a dear friend who more than anyone on the planet influenced my life's work. I consider her my "scientific soulmate". She was a dynamic woman, as successful in her cancer work as she was in business. At the same time, I know it was always painful for her to be such an outsider and a scientific rebel, and to have her ideas and published work condemned. We would commiserate together on the impossibility of getting the cancer work accepted by other physicians. She was convinced that the evidence for the cancer microbe in the scientific literature was overwhelming. In her view, the insurmountable problem was that "doctors don't read." I have written a new book about Virginia and her three colleagues (microbiologist Eleanor Alexander-Jackson, cell cytologist Irene Corey Diller and world-famous biochemist Florence Siebert). In that book, I show how Livingston and her colleagues believe they had collectively solved the riddle of the etiology of cancer. Titled FOUR WOMEN AGAINST CANCER , it is an attempt to explain pleomorphism and to picture these microbes in cancer, as well as to descibe the fabulous cancer research performed by these four remarkable women, all people that I was able to know personally, and sadly all of whom are passed away.

CBH: Do you think she was a genius whose achievements will someday be known to every future medical scientist and practitioner, or is that too optimistic an assessment?

Cantwell: The cancer microbe has been around since the late nineteenth century when the well-respected Scottish pathologist, William Russell MD, wrote on "the parasite of cancer." But powerful forces in medical science have always been against this research. I presume for monetary and egotistical reasons. That the cancer microbe has not been accepted for more than a century is truly the "eighth wonder of the world." I am sure one day medical historians will give us some good reasons for this. But remember that germs were known for more than a century before doctors finally admitted they caused human disease. Personally, I think most of us give ourselves too much credit in thinking how smart we are, whereas in reality, we aren't.

CBH: What are you predictions for the future of cancer bacteria research? Are at least some scientists starting to "get it" or are they a long way off from really taking a look at this most perplexing controversy?

Cantwell: In my study of the cancer microbe, I had to learn and observe what the bacteria looked like in the laboratory, as well as to consider how they might appear in the cancerous tissue. Unfortunately, pathologists and microbiologists are on two different planets. Pathologists pay little attention to germs in a laboratory, and microbiologists pay little attention to what there germs do when they infect human tissue that is subsequently examined by pathologists. Both pathologists and microbiologists are loathe to admit that what Virginia and I, and dozens of other researchers have reported, are indeed bacteria. Pleomorphism is still not accepted by many microbiologists, and the study of pleomorphic "cell wall deficient bacteria" in human disease is still in its infancy.For an up-to-date 2006 review of cell wall deficient forms of acid-fast mycobacteria, go to: http://www.vri.cz/docs/vetmed/51-7-365.pdf

CBH: In your opinion---and we realize you can only give an opinion---do you think cancer mortality could theoretically be lessened if treatments based on bacterial vaccines such as Livingston and others have proposed, were used on a large scale?

Cantwell: It is an axiom in medical science that one can't adequately treat a disease unless you know what causes it. That was certainly the case with AIDS until HIV was identified and anti-viral therapies developed. Similarly, it is my opinion that the treatment of cancer will remain dismal until these bacteria are recognized as cancer-causing agents by the scientific and cancer establishments. At that time, treatments will surely be devised to eradicate or minimize these cancer-causing microbes, including further research into the use of autogenous vaccines, as recommended by Livingston and others. I sincerely believe that Virginia Livingston will one day be honored at the greatest scientist of the twentieth century. I just hope that it won't take until the next century to accomplish this.

CBH : Absent the recognition of just what these bacteria are, would you say then, a treatment approach involving individually derived bacterial vaccines---i.e. bacteria cultured from each cancer patient---might serve as a potentially useful treatment strategy right now, as Livingston had advocated?

Cantwell: Yes, autogenous vaccines that were used by Virginia as an attempt to rev up the immune system could certainly be employed. However, this would require that bacteria be cultured from the patient's cancer tumor (or perhaps the blood or the urine) and then utilized to make a vaccine. This would require a lab able to perform this, as well as someone knowledgeable in making "autogenous" vaccines. For many years Livingston used John Majnarich of Seattle to make her vaccines. According to a current Google search, Majnarich's lab still provides autogenous vaccines to Edwin McClelland MD of San Diego, who worked briefly at the now defunct Livingston Clinic.