JOHN D. HUMBER, M.D., 1930

We will learn of others who worked with pancreatic enzymes and extracts, but Coffey focused on cortical adrenal hormone. His research should be extended and clarified.

Working Summary: Coffey’s adrenal extract method was unique in several way. The Gerson Institute today also uses pancreatic enzymes and pancreatin.

Dr. Coffey was chief surgeon and director of the Southern Pacific Railroad Hospital in San Francisco from 1926 to 1938. Highly respected for his surgical skill, in the 1920s he devised an operation to relieve the intense pain of angina pectoris, and was invited to demonstrate his technique before several leading universities in Europe.

As a rule, the men who developed new treatments for cancer were highly skilled and respected medical doctors whom their peers recognized as brilliant. Coffey was no exception.

In the late 1920s, Coffey became interested in cancer therapy. It resulted from experimenting with an adrenal extract in treating high blood pressure in a patient who was also cancerous.

Coffey was startled to find that the extract not only dramatically relieved the high blood pressure,—but the cancer as well. Very soon, John D. Humber, M.D., joined him in his research.

Over the next several years, they experimented with various extracts from the adrenal cortex of cattle, and then decided that an extract from the adrenal cortex of sheep was the most effective.It is not commonly known, but Coffey is said to have originally obtained the cancer extract idea from a Dr. Eaton, a well-known San Francisco urologist. Eaton, himself, had been encouraged by a Dr. Gye, an English cancer specialist, to investigate the hormones of the adrenal cortex for possible anti-cancer factors.

Learning of Eaton’s work, Coffey appropriated it as his own. This resulted in great enmity between the two men.As medical director of a large hospital, whichtreated many railroad workers, sent in from all over the western states, Coffey was in an excellent position to try out Eaton/Gye’s idea.

In January 1930, when he felt sufficient clinical evidence was available, Coffey demonstrated his technique before the San Francisco pathological Society. This brought him instant and widespread publicity!

Reporters sent reports to newspapers all over America, describing the remarkable improvement of some of the patients. Pain decreased, health seemed to generally improve, and cancers were disappearing. Records and comments by patients and staff were printed.

There was a rising ovation for Dr. Coffey, from over 1,200 California physicians at their 1930 convention.Besieged by cancer victims, Coffey announced in the press that he would only accept those whose cases had been diagnosed, through approved laboratory procedures, as malignant by a physician, and then referred to him—along with a letter that the case could not be helped furtherby surgery or radiation.

That was a wise move, since it provided documentation for the genuineness of each case, and did not conflict with the ongoing, brisk activity in surgery and radiation. He would only accept inoperable cases.

In addition, those accepted for treatment had to agree in advance in writing to an autopsy report, if they died during treatment.Everything seemed to be doing well, but then Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the AMA,heard about Coffey’s activities. He wrote:

“Pathologists and surgeons who have investigated the method express nothing but profound disappointment with both the clinical and pathological results. These experts indicate that post-mortem examinations which have been made in at least 30 cases do not reveal any definite specific destruction of cancer tissue or evidence that the spread of cancer in the bodies of the afflicted patients has been retarded.”

In view of Coffey’s very thorough method of case documentation, it is remarkable that Fishbein would dare oppose him publicly in the pages of the Journal. At their next annual meeting, members of the California State Medical Society issued a public criticism of Fishbein for his “unethical and unscientific” remarks.

As for Coffey, he had some remarks to make also:

“It appears highly unjust and unethical if Dr.Fishbein has employed pathologists working in secret. Such investigations could have been carried on openly at any of our clinics with our utmost cooperation. Secret investigations such as he implies remind one of the secret tribunals of medieval days when the accused was tried and sentenced without opportunity to defend himself at open trial.”

The contenders were identified, and the battle was joined. Thoughtful students of medical history could recognize the final outcome.

Patients by the thousands flocked to the Coffey-Humber Cancer Clinic in San Francisco, to receive the Coffey-Humber extract, as it came to be known.

A branch was opened in Los Angeles; and, in 1931, a wealthy widow of a railroad magnate, living on Long Island, offered to give her mansion as a third clinic in the chain. This would open the entire East Coast to the new anti-cancer method.

This resulted in a storm of opposition and protests.On one side were the common masses, plus wealthy patrons and fabulously rich railroad executives who sided with “their boys.” On the other was the New York City Welfare Board that, for some mysterious reason, saw fit to deny the people of New York the opportunity to obtain help.

The application was denied. Later that same year (1931), Dr. Rowland H. Harris reported in the Journal of the AMA that he had investigated the extract and found it to be worthless, and even harmful. He said that, in some instances, it accelerated the growth of tumors.

Fired with anger, Dr. R.W. Starr, director of the Los Angeles Coffey-Humber Cancer Clinic, declared that Harris was giving a false report.The anger and accusations continued. Dr.Balfour, a Mayo Clinic surgeon, was quoted by Time magazine as saying that “cancer is curable if [surgically] removed while it is a local disease.Cures by advertised serums, extracts, etc., are myths.”

Shortly afterward, Dr. Garland, a radiologist,stated that he was well-acquainted with the extract,that it relieved no pain, and he had seen the patients “die like flies.”

In March 1936, Coffey and Humber published their results, to date: 7,513 presumably hopeless cancer patients. Of these, 3,872 died before they could receive 30 injections (the minimum needed for a fair test). Of the 3,641 which received the full treatments, 1,040 recovered from cancer, which is about one-fourth. Of these, about 10% lived four or more years.

(It should again be noted here that the Coffey-Humber treatment neither included nor required any changes in diet or lifestyle. Without such changes, serums, extracts, etc., outstanding, longterm results could not be produced.)

In his report, Coffey also noted a statement by a well-known pathologist, Ewing, who said that not 5% of cancer patients recovered after receiving surgery or radiation.

In 1944, Dr. Coffey died. In later years, Dr.Humber decided to stop using the extract.Oddly enough, the method never received any kind of scientific investigation by its opponents.

Yet the clinical trials in California were carefully,and openly, conducted in the presence of many physicians and thorough records were kept.



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