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Sensitization of the innate immune system as a treatment for cancer was pioneered in 1891 by William Coley.1 Coley and others found that injection of a mixture of heat-killed bacteria in conjunction with surgery proved an effective therapy. This approach was in clinical use until the 1950s2 until it was eclipsed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which received preferential treatment when FDA clinical testing requirements were introduced.

Chemotherapy / Radiotherapy Heat-killed bacteria
Consistency High Relatively inconsistent (timing, dosages sometimes were patient-specific
Cost Low (fast, required little labor) High (labor-intensive, expensive bacterial preps)
Mechanism of Action Known Unknown – this effect was counterintuitive
Regulatory burden Low High

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