Nautilus

Teaching Your Body to Fight the Enemy Within

Some cancer therapies focus the attention of the immune system like a spotlight over Hollywood.Everett Collection / Shutterstock

In early May, 1891, William Coley, a New York surgeon, had before him an interesting case. The patient, a 35-year-old Italian man, had sarcoma tumors in his neck and tonsils, and was slowly starving to death as a result of the chicken-egg-sized mass protruding from his right tonsil into his throat. He could not eat solid food; liquids were not a safe bet either, as he sometimes aspirated them up his nose. A surgeon in Rome had operated on him three years before, but the tumors grew back

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