A lot of us "citizen scientists" who saw the news this week about a megadose of measles vaccine as a cancer treatment seem to have had the same question at the same time.
First, the news. “Mayo Clinic researchers announced a landmark study where a massive dose of the measles vaccine, enough to inoculate 10 million people, wiped out a Minnesota woman's incurable blood cancer,” USA Today reported. “The Mayo Clinic conducted the clinical trial last year using virotherapy. The method discovered the measles virus wiped out multiple myeloma cancer cells. Researchers engineered the measles virus (MV-NIS) in a single intravenous dose, making it selectively toxic to cancer cells.”
Now the question: Does this suggest that wild-type measles infection, the kind hundreds of thousands of kids caught every year before the measles vaccine arrived in the 1960s, performs some unsuspected function in preventing the occurrence of cancer? And the follow-up: Did mass vaccination wipe out this protection?
The first thing that caught my eye was the type of cancer – multiple myeloma. As it happens, I’ve been hearing about this cancer in the autism community quite a bit in the last year. In fact, in August of last year Mark Blaxill and I reported on the anonymous Case 3 in the first medical paper on autism, from 1943. We identified him as William Ritchey Miller of Raleigh, N.C. On his death certificate from July 8, 2011, the cause was listed: multiple myeloma.
According to Wikipedia, this kind of cancer is increasing. and affecting younger people than it has in the past, resulting in about 74,000 deaths in 2010, up from 49,000 in 1990. It is a cancer of the immune system, formed by malignant plasma cells in the bone marrow. We also reported that Miller, who was known as Ritchey, had one sibling, Alden Dykstra Miller. He died in Hyattsville, Md., in 1984. He was only 44 years old. The cause of death was lupus erythermatosis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own healthy tissue.
We all know that immune problems are common in the background of families with autistic children. It was ever thus – Case 1 in the original case series, Donald Triplett of Mississippi, had a near-fatal attack of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, in his early teens; his father had asthma, another autoimmune condition. Donald recovered from JRA after treatment with gold salts – and, as we’ve reported, his autistic symptoms also improved dramatically, according to his brother. (Both Donald and his brother still live in Forest, Mississippi.)
To me, it stands to reason that a virus – like measles – that triggers an immune response in children might serve some broader biological purpose best left undisturbed. Doing so might have some downstream effect on both an autoimmune condition like autism and a cancer of the immune system like multiple myeloma. (Another of the first 11 cases, Bridget Muncie, also died of cancer.)
That exposure to mercury -- a known and potent dysregulator of immunity -- may have messed up Ritchey's immune system enough to complicate his reaction to viruses, perhaps in concert with a family disposition to autoimmunity. Leo Kanner, the author of that first autism paper, noted that “following smallpox vaccination at 12 months, he had an attack of diarrhea and fever, from which he recovered in somewhat less than a week.” (We can assume he had measles.)
While Ritchey recovered physically, Kanner appears to have missed a big clue here. Regarding Ritchey’s failure to talk, his mother told Kanner that “I can’t be sure just when he stopped the imitation of word sounds. It seems that he has gone backward mentally gradually for the last two years.” His mother made this comment when Ritchey was about three, which puts his regression at the same time as his reaction to the smallpox shot two years earlier. But Kanner, who called the condition he was the first to describe “inborn autistic disturbances of affective contact,” seems to have missed clear evidence that Ritchey regressed after a bad reaction to a live virus vaccination.
Others did make that connection between live virus vaccine and autistic regression. As I’ve written before, in 1976 an article appeared in a German medical journal under the title "Autistiches Syndrom (Kanner) und Pockenschutzimpfung." Translation: Autistic Syndrome (Kanner) and Vaccination against Smallpox.
The English abstract reads:
"3-4 weeks following an otherwise uncomplicated first vaccination against smallpox a boy, then aged 15 months ... gradually developed a complete Kanner syndrome. The question whether vaccination and early infantile autism might be connected is being discussed. A causal relationship is considered extremely unlikely. But vaccination is recognized as having a starter function for the onset of autism."
Well, I think a causal relationship – which is exactly what a “starter function” is, no? -- is extremely likely, especially given the thousands of parental reports of children who have “gone backward mentally” after the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine were combined and mandated in the 1970s.
Yet the introduction of the MMR alone does not seem to trigger autism epidemics. As we suspect in the case of Ritchey Miller, something is priming the immune system to attack itself and to mishandle the viruses; we think it’s usually toxins in earlier or simultaneous vaccines, especially thimerosal (ethyl mercury), aluminum and other ingredients. That was the argument the so-called vaccine “court” rejected, despite the Hannah Poling concession, saying it required “believing six impossible things before breakfast” a la Alice in Wonderland.
We're staring through another looking glass altogether, I'm afraid -- into a nightmare world of "mysterious" autoimmune injury, including autism, lupus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile diabetes, and now, perhaps, diseases of adulthood like multiple myeloma and lupus, all because we started monkeying around unnecessarily with benign childhood viruses and bacteria, and introducing all kinds of toxins to potentiate their mutant offspring (some through pesticides and other vectors). The sick tragedy is that none of it was necessary to protect us against the few diseases actually worth fighting. A handful of judiciously deployed vaccines for rare and truly deadly illnesses would have sufficed (the kind in place before the vaccine injury act of 1986 gave pharma carte blanche, and kicked off the autism epidemic).
Allow me to quote the great Andy Wakefield, who was commenting on a number of regressive autism cases I was writing about in Olympia, Washington, in 2006:
"The key to many of the problems you see with viral vaccines is interference," he said afterward.
"The host control of a viral infection is fundamentally mediated through an adequate immune response, and that immune response has been conditioned by tens of thousands of years of evolution," said Wakefield. "And the outcome of an infection is dependent on the pattern of exposure.
"So measles is innocuous when encountered under normal circumstances of dose and age of exposure. But when it's encountered under atypical circumstances early in life, particularly at high dose, then the outcome is very different. And the problem for these viruses is persistence and delayed disease," he said.
"So if they can establish persistent infection, elude the host immune response, then they can all come back and cause delayed disease later in life."
I think the picture of what those “delayed diseases” include is beginning to become sharper, scarier, and much bigger than anyone imagined. Somewhere on Facebook yesterday I saw a comment by an autism mom who said a doctor had done a big workup on her son and summarized, “His immune system isn’t doing anything for him.”
It is not hard to imagine that an immune system so dysfunctional it “does nothing” could spawn all kinds of mayhem, including cancerous cells. On Thursday I quoted from a new scientific paper “that presents convincing evidence that the rapid increase in the number of vaccines given to US children has now created a state of immune overload in the majority, or close to the majority, of young US children and that this is being manifested by related health issues including epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and autism.”
That may not be the half of it, which is why everyone has a stake in confronting this new age of autism and god knows what else. Because most people with autism are still children, what we've learned about those first cases from the 1930s lets us peer into the future as we wonder what's next for kids just like Ritchey (and his brother Alden) Miller as they grow into adulthood. We could be in for a whole new deluge of health problems. To quote Jackson Browne: "Don't think it won't happen just because it hasn't happened yet."
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.