The Issels treatment, also known as Issels combination therapy, is a type of treatment developed by German physician Josef Issels to fight cancer by using immunotherapy, which involves adjusting the body's immune response to disease. Issels believed that it is a non-toxic way of recognizing and eliminating cancer cells. The Issels treatment, however, remains a very controversial medical method.
Issels believed that he could cure cancer by combining conventional and alternative methods. This means that he not only concentrated on the tumors that characterize cancer, but the immune system of the patient as a whole. This is why the Issels treatment is known as a type of integrative immunotherapy or referred to by its alternative term, Issels combination therapy. The alternative methods used in Issels treatment include removing front teeth or tonsils to prevent the spread of infection; introducing strict diets that usually consists of herbal tea and spring water and the abstinence of alcohol and caffeine; and vaccines developed by Issels and his research partner, Swiss veterinarian Franz Gerlach.
In 1951, Issels opened a clinic for the administration of this type of cancer treatment. In 1970, he published an article in the Clinical Trials Journal called "Immunotherapy in Progressive Metastatic Cancer, A Fifteen Year Survival Follow-up" in which he claimed that out of 370 patients under his care post-surgery or radiation, 87 percent of them lived beyond a five-year period without any detectable case of metastases, or spread of cancer.
The Issel treatment is not a popular treatment. In 1972, the American Cancer Society (ACS) published an article in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians called "Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment: Issel Combination Therapy," which denounced the treatment as ineffective. This was based on a report filed by a group of British researchers visiting Issels' clinic, which noted that the patients there, curiously, either did not show signs of cancer when admitted or significant tumor regression.
Additionally, the ACS article made references to Issels' legal issues, most notably the 1961 charges of fraud and manslaughter against him for promising the alternate treatment to patients, thus possibly leading to their deaths. Although Issels was acquitted of all charges three years later on the grounds of his genuine belief in his invention, his reputation as a physician was irrevocably sullied and only help seal the reputation of the Issel treatment as an unproven and ineffective mode of treatment for cancer.
The Issels treatment was used for famous clients such as Jamaican global reggae icon Bob Marley and Lillian Board, who was a British gold medalist in 400- and 800-meter races. Interestingly enough, the Issels treatment was particularly designed for advanced cases of cancer. It failed, however, to save the lives of Marley and Board, who suffered from melanoma and colorectal cancer, respectively.