TODAY, MANY AMERICANS DO NOT REMEMBER what a terrible curse "the polio epidemic" was upon the land. at its crest in the early 1950s over 33,000 Americans fell crippled to died slow, terrible deaths form polio each year. Most were children. The word "polio" struck fear into the hearts of parents across America. It was casually transmitted virus that first infected the lining of the intestines , then the blood stream, and finally the nervous system , were it destroyed the victim's brain stem. The difference between crippled and dead was determined by the extent of the damage to the brain stem. Cavernous hospital wards full of hideous looking machines called iron lungs” awaited patients who became too weak to breathe for themselves. President Franklin Roosevelt himself was crippled by polio before he entered the White House. the search for a polio vaccine became a national scientific effort supported by the most powerful political forces in the land . The Problem was this: Polio was caused by a virus, not a bacteria, and viruses do not respond to antibiotics. So, despite the spectacular success of antibiotics introduced to the American clinical scene in 1942, the medical community was powerless to stop these virus form crippling and killing.
A New York City lawyer close to President Roosevelt organized The March of Dimes, and collected millions of dollars of coins from grand school children across the country to finance the research effort. The progress was encouraging.
By the early 1950s, American scientist Jonas Salk came forward with a brave idea to eliminate all three strains of polio at once. Grow the polio viruses in the lab, kill them , then inject health children with the dead viruses. The dead viruses would not be able to reproduce, so they would not harm the children, but their immune systems would detach the presence of the invading viruses and would rally to defend the body, producing a hefty supply of antibodies in the process. Then the children's fully-armed immune to systems would be ready to repel any living polio virus that attacked them in the future. His trials in 1953 and 1954 were successful. Optimism about Salk's vaccine reached it perk.
Five laboratories began producing the vaccine form procedure Salk designed, and accumulated a large enough supply for a mass inoculation beginning in the April of 1955, touched off by an official ceremony on the tenth anniversary of Roosevelt's death that confirmed Salk's success. The results or the years of research, millions of dollars of investment, and the fate to thousands of crippled children were ready for most publicized and anticipated event in the history of the medicine.
At the eleventh hour a bacteriologist at NIH was told to safety-test the new polio vaccine. Her mane was Bernice Eddy,M.D.,PhD.When she injected the polio vaccine into her monkeys, they fell paralyzed in their cages.Eddy realized that the virus in the vaccine was not dead as promised, but still alive and ready to breed. it was time to sound the alarm. she sent pictures of the paralyzed monkeys to NIH's management and warned them of the upcoming tragedy. A debate erupted in the corridors of power. Was the polio vaccine really ready? Should the mass inoculation proceed on schedule?
A handful of prominent doctors across the country stepped into the fray to throw the weight of their reputations on the side of the vaccine. One of these doctors was Mary Sherman's boss, Dr.Alton Ochsner. to demonstrate his conviction that the vaccine was really ready, he inoculated his own grandchildren with it.
The mass inoculation proceeded on schedule. Within days, children fell sick form polio, some were crippled, some died. Estimates very dramatically. Ochsner's grandson died.His granddaughter contracted polio but survived. An enormous lawsuit erupted. Heads rolled everywhere. The Secretary of Health, Education & Welfare (Oveta Hobby) stepped down. the Director of the National Institutes of Health ( Dr.William Sebrell) resigned. it was the biggest fiasco in medical history. A second, safer vaccine developed by Albert Sabin was deployed. it used a weakened live virus instead of a dead virus. it worked. Polio was history. The future was safe… or so it seemed.
in the aftermath of the debacle, Bernice Eddy was taken off polio research and transferred to the influenza section bye the thankless NIH management. She shared her frustrations with a small group of women scientists who ate brown-bag lunches on the steps of one of the laboratories. There Eddy met a tenacious scientist maned Sarah Stewart, M.D,PhD., who was waging her own battle against the official paradigms of bureaucratic medicine. Bernice Eddy and Sarah Stewart became close friends.
Sarah Stewart's name remains virtually unknown today, despite her huge contribution to modern medicine. Not only did she prove that some cancers were caused by viruses. but subsequent research on the virus she discovered led to the discovery of DNA recombination, which is one of the most powerful tool in medical research today.
Raised in he fertile Rio Grande Valley on the Mexican border, Stewart's educational odyssey ranged from the New Mexico Agricultural college in 1927 to a Ph.D. instead of an M.D. was holding back her career advancement, she entered Georgetown Medical School and earned her M.D.in 1947. Then she joined the National Cancer Institute, and stayed there until reassigned to the U.S.Public Health Service in 1960.
From the beginning, Sarah Stewart promoted the idea that cancer was caused by viruses. Due to this, she was not well accepted by the NIH or NCI staffs, who described her as "excepted lady" determined to prove her theory was right:"No one believed her…" Finally, she was given access to an NCI laboratory in Bethesda, where she could try to prove her theories. In 1953,she almost succeeded, but her work was not accepted by the ruling crowd at NIH. They found her methods sloppy. and objected to the fact that she did not cultured her viruses.
in 1956 her lunch partner Bernice Eddy showed Sarah Stewart how to grow her viruses in a culture of mouse cell. She now had all the ingredients she needed, and began a series of an experiments which are called "classic" by modern day NIH researchers.
as her work progressed, she realized that she stood on the edge of an extremely important discovery and became very protective of her techniques. In staff presentations, she would bewilder NIH pathologists by showing them slides of things they had never seen before. Then when they asked how she produced her results, she would giggle and say, "It's a secret." To quote her supervisor Alan Rabson: "She drove everybody crazy." One of her procedural anomalies was that she never did control groups, saying, "They only confuse you."
In 1957 Stewart and Eddy discovered the polyoma virus, which produced several types of cancer in variety of small mammals. Polyoma proved that some cancers were indeed caused by viruses. Herd discovery officially threw open the doors of cancer virology. As Rabson phrased it: "Suddenly the whole place just exploded after Sarah found polyoma." It was the beginning of a new era of hope. but it raised some dark questions about earlier deeds. Before long Yale's laboratory discovered that the polyoma virus that had produced the cancer in Stewart's mice and hamsters turned out ot act like Simian Virus#40(SV-40), a monkey virus that caused cancer.
In June 1959 Bernice Eddy,who was still officially assigned to the flu vaccine project, began thinking about the polio vaccine again. This time she was worried about something much deeper then polio. The vaccine's manufacturers had grown their polio viruses on the kidneys of monkeys. And when they removed the polio virus form the monkeys' kidneys, they also removed an unknown number of other monkeys viruses. The more they looked, the more they found . The medical science of the day knew little about the behavior or consequences of these monkeys viruses. But times were changing. Confronted with mounting evidence that some monkey viruses caused cancer, Eddy grew suspicious of the polio vaccine and asked an excruciating question: Had they inoculated an entire generation of Americans with cancer-causing monkey viruses? She conducted her research quietly, without alerting her NIH supervisors.
In October 1960, one month before the Kennedy/Nexon presidential debate, Eddy gave a talk to the New Yourk Cancer Society and, without warning NIH in advance, announced that she had examined monkey kidney cells in which the polio virus was grown, and had found they were infected with cancer-causing viruses. Her implication was clear: There were cancer-ccausing monkey viruses in the polio vaccine! This was tantamount to forecasting an epidemic of cancer in American. No suggestion of cancer-causing monkey viruses in the polio vaccine was welcomed at NIH. When the cussing stopped, they crushed Bernice Eddy professionally.
They took away her lab, destroyed her animals, put her under a gag order, prevented her form attending professional meetings, and delayed publication of her scientific papers.In the words of Edward Shorter, author of The Health Century: "Her treatment became a scandal within the scientific community". Later it became the subject of a Congressional inquiry. In the words of Dr. Lawrence Kilham, a fellow NIH researcher who wrote a letter of protest to the U.S.Surgeon General's office: "The presence of a cancer virus in the polio virus vaccine is the matter demanding full investigation." Aand further: "Dr Eddy's case, to many of us, represents a somewath Prussian-like attempt to hider an outstanding scientist."
Eddy, however, was not the only one who investigated the issue. A viral specialist maned Laurella McClelland, working for vaccine developer Maurice Hilleman in Philadelphia, found similar problems in the poliovaccine. The essence of the problem was that SV-40did not cause cancer in these natural host, an Asian MONKEY. But what would it do in another primate that had never even exposed to it? One whose immune system had not been sensitized to SV40?
Like Stewart and Eddy, Hilleman knew that the pollution of laboratory animals was hopelessly cross-infected with all sorts of viruses. Monkeys form different continents were frequently caged together. it would be impossible to guarantee that any monkey in the American laboratory population had not been exposed to SV-40 at some point in the past. Hilleman needed clean monkeys caught in the wild. To avoid any last minute contamination, he completely by-passed the commercial animal importing network, He arranged to have a group of Green Monkeys caught in africa and sent to Philadelphia via Madrid, an airport which normally did not handle any animal traffic. his own drivers picked up the clean monkeys at the Philadelaphia airport and brought them straight to his lab.
When injected with SV-40, these clean African Green Monkeys developed cancer. Hilleman announced these findings at a medical conference in Copenhagen. But it was not news to the NIH staffers in the audience. The insider already knew there was a cancer-causing virus in the polio vaccine, but they had not announced it. It was the public that did not know. Should the public have been told?
It is difficult for us who have seen the enormous press coverage of AIDS to understand the indolent response of the 1960s press on this subject. Was it really their job to prevent public panic? Did they cower in the face of scientific authority? Were they lazy? Or stupid? Or arrogant? Or were they told not to run the story by political forces? It is hard to say. But there is evidence that the word leaked out anyway.
In the spring of 1961, one of Eddy's co-workers published a medical article which said there was live SV-40 in the polio vaccine. Eddy herself confirmed that the SV-40 monkey virus was causing cancer in hamsters as well as monkeys, proving that it was capable of crossing the species barrier. But she was not allowed to release the information until a year later. NIH notified the U.S. surgeon general that "future polio vaccines would be free of SV-40." On July 26th, 1961, the New York Times reported two vaccine manufacturers were withdrawing their polio vaccines "until they can eliminate a monkey virus." The article ran on page 33, with no mention of cancer. Seven months later, a second article in New York Times mentioned the possibility of cancer in the polio vaccine. That article ran on page 27. There the story died, and the specter of an approaching epidemic of cancer silently rose on the horizon.
On the heels of the polio fiasco, the medical hierarchy feared the judgement of the masses. Their ability to destroy a painstakingly constructed scientific career overnight had been clearly proved. Another spate of bad news might shatter the public's confidence in vaccines altogether. Where would the world be then? Where would the public health establishment be then? As SV-40 discoverer Maurice Hilleman put it, the government kept the contamination of the polio vaccine secret to "avoid public hysteria."
We are reminded of the scene in Frankenstein when a crowd of superstitious villagers gathered at a castle gate, angrily waving their pitchforks and torches in the air, demanding to know what evil was going on inside the doctor's laboratory. To quote the words of polio vaccine Albert Sabin: "I think to release certain information prematurely is not a public service. There's too much scaring the public unnecessarily. Oh, your children were injected with the cancer virus and all that. That's not very good!"
"Prematurely"? Hadn't the mass inoculation already taken place? Hadn't several top scientists using carefully controlled experiments established that problem was real? Hadn't they announced the results to there professional peers?
"Unnecessarily"? Wasn't there still time to try and do something about it? Shouldn't someone at least try? Sabin might as well have said, "I prefer my tombstone read, 'the vanquisher of polio,' and not, 'the father of the great cancer epidemic.'" His attempt to hide behind the apron of "Public service" is no more than an attempt to avoid both responsibility and the unpleasant experience of facing the angry public. I'm sure we would all prefer not to be held accountable for our blunders.
Is this Dr. Eddy's forecasted epidemic?
The more important question: was Eddy's prediction of a cancer epidemic accurate? Did the epidemic ever happen? If it did, wouldn't it show up in the cancer statistics? Wouldn't the great wizards of medicine tell us if there was really an epidemic? Wouldn't the press jump all over it? Given the times, I decided to check the numbers myself. I real epidemic should be easy to spot due to its size. So I dug out the cancer statistics published by the national cancer institute in 1989 and started reading related literature. Two things became clear:
1. We are losing the war on cancer, and
2. We were in the midst of an ongoing cancer epidemic.
Despite the improvements in cancer treatment which had decreased the age-adjusted, per capita death rate slightly, the hard fact remained: Americans were getting cancer faster than ever! Reporting on a 1994 article published in the journal of The American Medical Association, the front page of USA Today stated, "baby boomers are much more likely to get cancer than their grandparents were at the same age." And further, "Men born between 1948 and 1957 have three times as much cancer not related to smoking as men born in the late 1800's." Why? Per USA Today: "The studies researchers insist the increase cannot be fully explained by smoking, better diagnosis, or an aging population." In the works of U.S. Public Health Service official Devra Lee Davis: "There's something else going on."
I'm not a biostatistician, but John Bailar III was when he worked for the National Cancer Institute. When he told the sad facts to congress in 1991, NCI's response was "absolute rage." His subsequent tenure there was brief. That "Something else going on" may also help explain why the summary data we have available to us ends in 1988 (document B, page. 353).
Despite the $22,000,000,000 spent on research during the twenty-year-old War on Cancer, little progress had been made in prevention and some areas had gotten dramatically worse. The bottom line for the cancer establishment was that the NCI's initial lofty goal of a fifty percent reduction in the cancer rate by the end of the century had to be abandoned. The "war" may have stimulated additional billions of dollars in funding in its day, but well before the end of the century it became indefensible.
The reality is that 1988 saw a twenty percent total increase in cancers versus 1973! But as is true with most averages, the twenty percent increase does not tell the whole story. The last majority of cancers remain relatively stable versus 1973. The twenty percent increase is the result of five cancers which increased dramatically: lung, breast, prostate, lymphoma, and melanoma of the skin. The rest of the cancers did not increase significantly during the same period.
Remember the dreaded polio epidemic of the 1950's? With its 33,000 cases of polio each year. Compare that to these numbers from 1994: 182,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed; 500,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed. The increase in any one of these diseases in the years since 1985 was greater than the entire polio epidemic at its peak!
Since 1985? Yes, 1955 + 30 years is 1985. A ten year old who received the polio vaccine in 1955 turned 40 in 1985 the graph entitled "The Cancer Epidemic" shows the situation clearly. It depicts the percentage increase int he incidence rate compared to the base year 1973. (The NCI age adjusted the numbers to keep the aging baby-boomer age wave from inflating the picture).
The first thing to notice is what didn't happen. Look a the line entitled "all other sites combined." 1988 shows a zero percent increase over 1973. This includes leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, and cancers of the brain, colon, bladder, rectum, larynx, pancreas, kidney, stomach, ovary, testes, cervix, uterus, thyroid, esophagus, and liver. For some reason, bone cancers are not mentioned.
Next is the lung cancer line. Lung cancer statistics were terrible for both men and women. Both sexes showed a long, steady increase in both incidence rates and mortality rates over the 16 years from 1973 to 1978. This upward trend had been consistent ever since it began in the 1920's, when lung cancer was a virtually non existent disease. The general consensus had been the dramatic, but consistent, rise in lung cancer is the result of cigarette smoking, so we will isolate it from our search for Eddy's epidemic of viral cancer but it is sobering to think that the 500,000 annual cases of this lung disease consumed approximately $50,000,000,000 worth of our medical insurance premiums each year. That's twice as much money as was spent on the war of cancer over those twenty years! If you are like most of us and have a problem thinking in billions, then try this: in the U.S., we were spending $137,000,000 every day on the treatment of one disease.
The line entitled "Four soft tissue cancers show four cancers that averaged a 50% increase over the sixteen year period. These four all show dramatic increase in their incidence rate versus 1973:
We should note that there is no accepted explanation for what caused this!
Each of the four soft tissue cancers showed a dramatic increase in its incidence rate at the same time. Is this not what we would expect to find following a mass inoculation with a virus which caused multiple types of cancers? This would be my candidate for Eddy's epidemic (PHOTO OF A CHART )
Of all the cancers, non receives more press then breast cancer. Talk shows and soft-news TV features share the common burden like a giant group therapy session. Science magazine, which is hardly sensational, said, "The breast cancer statistics are alarming."
Publicly, professionals expressed bewilderment over the breast cancer statistics. The explanations they did offer were feeble. The most commonly heard: "early detection." Early detection certainly helps treatment and the death rate, but it does not significantly affect the incidence rate. All early detection does to the incidence tare is borrow a fraction of cases form the next year or tow. That lowers next year's incidence rate unless it too borrows from the following years with early detection. In other words, it has no long-term effect on the incidence numbers
The "Breast Cancer" graph show the incidence of breast cancer per 100,000 women from 1978to 1987. There was a huge and sudden increase in the breast cancer rate around 1985. Remember: Ten-year-old girls who received the vaccine in 1955 became forty-years-old women 1985, the age when breast cancer starts showing up in significant numbers. If the contamination of the polio vaccine was going to produce a wave of breast cancer, 1985 would be a logical years for it show up.(Is it coincidental that 1985 just happened to be the year that my forty-year-old sister got breast cancer, when there was no history of breast cancer in our family?)
The then year period shown in the above graph reveals an over 30 per cent increase in the rate of breast cancer. What this works out to is breast cancer in American women grew form 130,000 cases per year to over 180,000 cases per year. Is the sudden appearance of 50,000 additional cases of breast cancer per year an epidemic? Polio was considered a major epidemic with only 33,000 total cases per year! Why was breast cancer not considered an epidemic at 180,000 cases per year? These breast cancer numbers alone eclipse the polio numbers of the 1950s.
Then add the 200,000 cases of prostate cancer… then add lymphoma… then add skin cancer…. W should ask ourselves the obvious question: Why have we not heard more about this enormous epidemic of soft tissue cancers? Could it be because the billions of dollars which the U.S. government gave to NCI andNIH failed to produce a solution in time?
Despite the face that the viral nature of several cancers had been proven by government scientists nearly forty year sealer, the 1994 edition of the American Cancer Society's publication Cancer Facts & Figures did not even mention "virus" among the possible causes of the most alarming increase in cancer ever recorded. Why?
Today, however, there is abundant evidence of a variety of simian viruses found in the human blood supply. Of particular concern is the DNA form SV-40 repeatedly extracted from several types of tumors, including brain, bone, and previously-rare chest cancers. In the words of former FDA virologist John Martin,M.D., Ph.D., "SV-40" infection is now widespread within the human population almost certainly as a result of the polio vaccine."
Does "almost certainly" imply some conditionality that a careful reader might abject to? Does "former FDA virologist" create even the tiniest crack in seamless credibility? Am I forcing this point? Is this for real?
Did dozens of monkey viruses get into the human blood supply from the polio vaccine? Did they contaminate both the Salk and Sabin vaccines? Were these the same vaccines given to millions of children ti both the United States and Europe? Consider this 1997 quote from the U.S. Government's own Journal of the National Cancer Institute: "In the 1950s,SV-40 was one of several dozen viruses that contaminated the original Salk and Sabin polio vaccines administered to millions of school children in the United States and Europe.' The vaccine contaminated with SV-40 was injected into trusting children until 1963.
Forty-one years later, an in-depth investigation by journalists Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher finally documented this same public health disaster in the detail which it deserves, including interviews with many of the scientists involved. The 2004 title speaks for itself, The Virus and the Vaccine: True Story of a Cancer Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccin, and the Millions of Americans Exposed. Enough said.
Bernice Eddy Obviously Thought the possibility of n upcoming epidemic of viral cancer was real. Why else would she have risked her career and her pension by announcing her findings to the medical community without NIH's knowledge? Did she fear that political interests at NIH would burry her warning, like they did when she sent them photos of monkeys paralyzed by walk's Vaccine? Or was she just concerned that the glacially slow gears of bureaucratic science would not move fast enough to produce a solution in time? It may already have been too late. The viral damage to the genetic structure of the ell may take place very clearly in the infection. In 1959 Eddy explained it this way:
It may be that the virus starts the cancerous process, but by the time we detect the tumor, there is so little virus left, - in an altered form – that we cannot detect it.
In 1995, it was explained this way: If the growth-controlling ras gene is somehow damaged, it may become stuck in the "on" position. Either way, there was no possible political benefit to be gained from telling the public about Eddy's forecasted epidemic of cancer unless a vaccine could be developed in time to prevent it. The issue was speed.
Developing a vaccine against a spectrum of cancer-causing monkey viruses already inoculated into millions of people in the polio vaccine was at best a long shot. But there was some evidence that anti-virus vaccines were possible. Quoting Time MAgazine:
Stewart and Eddy have gone a vital step farther…and made a vaccine that protects a big majority of normally susceptible animals against the polyoma virus's effects.
The odds of success were slim, but the stakes were enormous: millions of Americans with cancer. They had to do something. They had to try. And they might get lucky. They might have serendipity. In a word, they were desperate.
eddy may have underestimated the government, or she may have understood them better than any of us. Either way, it looks as if the government did spring into action, at least by bureaucratic standards, but the statistics suggest that they failed to produce solution in time.