- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- * [NOTE: For those wishing to see a list of Dr.Cantwell's
published abstracts, click this