Looking Back, Looking Forward: Cancer and Vaccines
- Cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in American children, and the rise in childhood cancers has occurred alongside dramatic expansion of the childhood vaccine schedule.
- Vaccine history illustrates that the presence of adventitious agents and contaminants in viral vaccines has been a recurrent problem, including monkey virus in polio vaccines and pig viruses in rotavirus vaccines—these unwanted and unanticipated contaminants may be linked to cancer risks.
- Vaccine manufacturers are interested in using continuous cell lines (which can reproduce indefinitely) for viral vaccines, including cell lines from human tumors and cell lines that cause tumors in lab animals.
- Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not previously allow tumor-derived or tumor-causing cell lines to be used in vaccines—due to concerns about their potential for transmitting diseases, including cancer—the FDA now says that these cell lines are “optimal” for growing some viruses.
- If tumor-derived and tumor-causing cell lines come into widespread use in viral vaccines, could potential “worst-case scenarios” unfold that include further increases in childhood cancer?
Many people might be shocked to learn that cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in American children. Over the past several decades, there have been significant increases in various types of childhood cancers, including leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The rise in childhood cancers has played out in tandem with other worrisome child health trends, including escalating rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
The childhood vaccine schedule has expanded dramatically over the same time period. There is good reason to suspect that the ever-more-burdensome vaccination program, along with other toxic childhood exposures, is linked to pediatric cancer trends. Although multiple aspects of vaccination may set the wheels in motion for cancer—including vaccines’ interference with normal immune system development and synergistically neurotoxic vaccine ingredients—a likely but infrequently discussed contributor may also be the presence in vaccines of viruses and other contaminants that are not supposed to be there.
Learning from history
Many childhood vaccines are viral vaccines: poliovirus, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), varicella and rotavirus, to name a few. To produce the vaccines, scientists have to grow the virus under controlled conditions while modifying it in some way so that it does not cause the harm it is supposed to prevent. However, as vaccine history illustrates, the presence of adventitious agents and contaminants in viral vaccines has been a recurrent problem. For example:
- From the mid-1950s to early 1960s, up to a third of polio vaccines in the U.S. were contaminated with simian virus 40 (SV40), which came from the monkey kidney cell cultures used to make the vaccines. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee reported in 2002 that SV40 can “produce pathological effects in immunocompromised hosts or in non-host species.” The committee concluded that “moderate to strong lines of biological evidence support the theory that SV40 contamination of polio vaccine could contribute to human cancers” and that SV40 “is likely present in some human tumors.” The committee also rated concerns about “inadvertent” vaccine contaminants as “significant because of the seriousness of cancers as the possible adverse health outcomes” [emphasis in original].
- Researchers have warned for some time that incorporation of genetic material from an unrelated species is a risk of genetically engineered vaccines, and the story of the two genetically engineered rotavirus vaccines rolled out in the mid-2000s shows that this concern is justified. In 2010, an academic research team “unexpectedly” discovered that both were contaminated with DNA from two porcine circoviruses. The pig viruses were discovered by chance when the researchers conducted “a novel, highly sensitive analysis not routinely used for adventitious agent screening.” One of the pig viruses in question is associated with severe wasting and immunodeficiency in pigs. The long-term effects in humans are, as yet, unknown.
- Judy Mikovits’s 2014 book Plague discusses how “growing human viruses in animal tissue and cells…, then re-injecting that material back into humans, could introduce new animal viruses into the human population”—with catastrophic consequences. Reflecting on her work with mouse viruses, Dr. Mikovits recently stated: “Every scientist who works with these viruses and worked at the National Cancer Institute recognized the possibility that if you put human tissue and mouse tissue together, the possibility is that you’re going to pick up a virus that is silent in the mouse—that is, it doesn’t hurt the mouse—but it kills the human or causes serious disease in the human. …[But] you might not see the cancer for two decades.”In 1999, a top-ranking FDA regulator openly worried about green-lighting tumorigenic cell lines for vaccines in light of their known capacity to provoke malignant tumors in laboratory animals. The official cautioned, ‘It’s very important to assure that these things are safe before they are given to people.’
Worse things to come?
Ordinarily, cell strains can only divide a finite number of times, but cell culture techniques changed when scientists discovered in the 1950s that they could create “immortal” or “continuous” cell lines (CCLs)— cell lines that reproduce indefinitely—from cancer cells. In addition to tumor-derived CCLs, subsequent advances in virology and biotechnology have enabled genetically engineered “tumorigenic” CCLs (meaning that they can cause tumors in animals). Some laboratory-manipulated cell lines are coaxed into immortalization through the introduction of genes from tumor-causing viruses.
Historically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refrained from allowing use of these types of cell lines in vaccines, due to “anxiety” about their “potential for transmitting infectious diseases and/or cancer.” In 1999, a top-ranking FDA regulator openly worried about green-lighting tumorigenic cell lines for vaccines in light of their known capacity to provoke malignant tumors in laboratory animals. The official cautioned, “It’s very important to assure that these things are safe before they are given to people.” Among the “major safety concerns” cited in connection with using tumor-derived and tumorigenic cell lines in vaccines, the FDA acknowledged the potential for vaccines to contain residual live cells capable of producing tumors in humans; residual DNA; adventitious (coming from another source) viruses; and “unknown” tumor-causing factors. Summarizing on its website, the agency recently stated:
“Some of these tumor-forming cell lines may contain cancer-causing viruses that are not actively reproducing. Such viruses are hard to detect using standard methods. These latent, or ‘quiet,’ viruses pose a potential threat, since they might become active under vaccine manufacturing conditions.” [emphasis added]
Catering to industry
Over time, the FDA has licensed (for use in viral vaccines) two CCLs derived from apparently healthy animals, including one from African green monkey kidney cells (inactivated polio vaccine and rotavirus vaccines) and a canine kidney cell line approved for some inactivated influenza vaccines. Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers have continued to prod the FDA to approve tumor-derived and tumorigenic cell lines for viral vaccine production, attracted by the cell lines’ ability to “yield high quantities of…vaccine.” These petitions appear to be bearing fruit. In 2012, laying the groundwork for more manufacturer-favorable decisions, a FDA document put forth the view that the “current repertoire” of animal-derived cell lines is “inadequate” for the job and that “cell lines derived from tumors may be the optimal and in some cases the only cell substrate that can be used to propagate certain vaccine viruses” [emphasis added].
In the 2012 document, the FDA’s vaccine regulators alluded to the disquieting possibility that they might issue a blanket approval rather than reviewing novel cell lines on a case-by-case basis: “Recommendations of the advisory committee will be applicable to other tumor-derived cell lines (human and non-human) proposed for vaccine manufacture in the future” [emphasis added].
How does the FDA plan to ensure the safety of viral vaccines produced using tumor-derived and tumorigenic cell lines? “New technologies” apparently are the answer. The FDA states:
“Our laboratory is investigating ways to activate latent viruses in cell lines and to detect the activated viruses, as well as other unknown viruses, using new technologies. …These methods will enable FDA scientists to help manufacturers to determine whether their specific cell substrate is safe to use for vaccine production.” [Emphasis added]
Discussing safety concerns, a Merck scientist also recently put his faith in “new technologies,” stating that “some new technologies may…need to be developed” to address the “complexity” of clearing and inactivating viruses and forestalling “a wide range of potential ‘worst case’ viral clearance scenarios.”
Throwing caution to the wind
There are many complexities that the FDA’s vague assurances fail to take into account. For example, those who study viruses—the planet’s “most abundant and diverse biological entities”—recognize that, in most individuals, virus and host reach a “highly complex equilibrium” that not only allows the person “to tolerate the continuous presence of the virus without appreciable…damage” but can even confer health benefits, such as the protection against cancer offered by acute childhood infections such as measles. These long-term benefits are negated when childhood infections are suppressed through vaccination. When the delicate host-virus balance is “broken” by genetic and/or environmental “insults” (insults that likely include toxin-laden vaccines), the balance may turn “to the pathological side”—a situation often characterized by “immunosuppression, inflammation, autoimmunity and cancer.” These pathologies are characteristic of ASD and other neurodegenerative diseases as well as cancer.
In the mad rush to develop ever more vaccines, few are asking whether viral vaccines might be altering host-virus equilibrium and opening the door for immunosuppression and adverse outcomes in vulnerable children. If tumor-derived and tumorigenic cell lines come into widespread use in viral vaccines, could potential “worst-case scenarios” unfold that include further increases in childhood cancer? Given that the mechanisms used to create immortalized cell lines are the same mechanisms that cancer cells use to grow out of control, vaccine regulators should be exercising the utmost caution—rather than throwing caution to the wind to please the vaccine industry.
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