“…the history of the Koch Treatment is more dramatic than anything which the mind of a Hollywood fiction writer could imagine.”
So wrote three doctors in Birth of a Science (1957), the story of William F. Koch, MD, PhD., a Detroit man who lived from 1885 to 1967. Dr. Koch is said to have created one of the most remarkable medical therapies of the last century — a treatment not only for cancer but also for many other diseases. Yet these days it’s a therapy mostly confined to the pages of history.
This is how the story unfolded…and failed to unfold, too.
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Dr. Koch first made his name in 1913 with research into the parathyroid glands, for which he received great praise from the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
His discoveries led him to a new theory. Diseases including cancer result from a malfunctioning of the body’s oxidation system, by which cellular energy is created. He believed that with an optimal oxidation system, disease could not take hold.
Since the heart and brain were more resistant to oxidation deficits, he believed they must contain one or more substances that produce energy. He found this to be the case. The substances in question are carbonyl compounds.
These are essential for normal oxidation, according to Dr. Koch. He found that toxins could damage or remove these carbonyls and reduce oxidation, leading to disease states. He theorized that if he could restore the missing or damaged carbonyls, the oxidation system would be boosted and normal health restored.
The first test of his theory
He had the first opportunity to test his theory in 1917.
A woman was in the last stages of metastatic liver cancer and not expected to survive more than a week. Koch injected a carbonyl-rich extract of heart and brain tissue. He returned some days later to collect the body so he could see the effect of his treatment at autopsy. However her body wasn’t there and he assumed he hadn’t received it due to a hospital mix-up.
Imagine his surprise when he ran into the woman six months later, fully recovered.
In 1919, he wrote this up, with other case studies, in a medical journal. That’s when his nightmare began.
A representative of the editor of JAMA visited him. After praising his work and telling him that he would become world famous, he asked Dr. Koch to hand over all his research including how the treatment is produced. Koch refused. Two months later he was denounced as a quack by the same JAMA editor who had heaped praise on him years earlier. From then on all of Koch’s submissions to medical journals were turned down for publication.
Shortly after their meeting, Dr. Koch found a way to produce carbonyl catalysts synthetically from cheap chemicals. The catalyst he used most often he named glyoxylide.
The first and only medical trial
He asked the Wayne County Medical Society to appoint a committee to oversee a trial of the treatment on five ‘stretcher’ cases considered terminal. They agreed but did nothing until Koch appealed to the Society’s President to act.
Two committee members turned up the next morning, examined one patient and decided it was late and went home. In spite of this, Dr. Koch treated five patients. According to Dr.Koch, “In three weeks these patients were up and around, no more hemorrhages, no more pain, cheerful, gaining strength and joyfully encouraging each other.”
Of the five cases, three were completely cured, but the committee reported that the treatment was ineffective.
An independent observer said, “The report of this so-called committee outstrips in bias, unfairness and mendacity anything that has ever been my lot to observe in medical practice of forty-two years.” After this, all Dr. Koch’s requests for further trials were refused.
In 1923, Dr. Field of the Radium Institute of New York reviewed 34 Koch cases and wrote they “without doubt formed the most remarkable experience of my medical career.”
Word spread of Dr Koch and his treatment, and he never lacked patients. During the 1920s Detroit was reportedly the only large city in the United States to see a drop in cancer mortality rates. All others increased. For instance, Philadelphia and Los Angeles saw a 30% increase. The rate in Detroit fell by 20%, according to the book on which I’m relying for this story, Politics in Healing by Dan Haley.
I don’t know if one doctor could bring about such a large reduction in the cancer rate in a large city, but that’s what the report implies.
Helping the body heal itself
The Koch treatment was remarkably simple. The body itself did all the work. It just needed to be kick-started into action. Only a single molecule was needed to do this, so the solution Dr. Koch prepared was effectively homeopathic, and usually one dose was all that was required. If a second injection was needed it would be administered around three months later.
Good nutrition and detoxification were also part of the program. A week before the shot, patients had to eat mainly raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Foods to be avoided included anything processed, animal protein, tea or coffee.
Patients also had to avoid exposure to chemicals, drugs, perfumes and cigarette smoke. Dr. Koch believed all these interfered with oxidation processes. Patients also had to undergo a number of colonic irrigations, a detoxification practice still common in alternative cancer clinics.
People seeking treatment were also cautioned to expect a number of healing crises, with chills, fever, aches and soreness at intervals that would last a day or two. These were interpreted as showing the treatment was working.
Other doctors who witnessed the Koch treatment’s remarkable successes wanted to write papers and spread the message, but were threatened with loss of their professorships if they did so. They were forced to stop using the treatment.
An 87% cure rate in leprosy
In 1935 Dr. Maisin, a world authority on cancer, invited Dr. Koch to Belgium. A number of wealthy American doctors followed to denounce Koch as a charlatan. However, Dr. Maisin told them he was convinced the treatment was scientifically sound.
At least one of the critics had major investments in radium, the rival treatment. Drs. Koch and Maisin’s research was later published in a European medical journal.
Dr. Maisin also arranged for treatment of leprosy in the Congo with the Koch catalysts. It had an impressive 87% cure rate. This led to a request by prominent American citizens to the Surgeon General of the United States asking that lepers in Louisiana be allowed access to the same treatment. The request was turned down.
In 1941, Dr. Koch traveled to Brazil. It wasn’t long before he was curing the incurable from cancer, leprosy and TB in Rio, including some important government officials.
At a hospital, Koch was confronted with a very angry pharmaceutical company representative who threatened him and told him to keep out of their business in South America or else.
The FDA launches an attack
A few weeks after this incident, he was forced to return home to meet with FDA officials who intended to prosecute him for false, fraudulent and deceptive product labeling. They also said his remedy could not be differentiated from distilled water. (This is a common charge against homeopathy as well.)
Before he could accept a Canadian invitation to demonstrate his treatment, he was arrested without warning in Miami on Good Friday, 1942. Too late to visit a bank to get bail – which was set at an amount usually reserved for murderers – he spent Easter in jail.
Although the Government didn’t win the subsequent court case in 1943, several of the jury voted to convict. Still under indictment, he could not travel to Canada or Brazil, where his protocol received a warmer reception.
The FDA made a second attempt to convict in 1946. They charged that his chemistry was bogus, that glyoxylide didn’t exist, and that his product lacked efficacy. The former was rebutted by scientists at Dow Chemicals who testified that his chemistry was sound. Their research director called him ‘the Modern Pasteur’.
Dr. Koch sent his catalysts to the FDA so they could do their own tests, but they didn’t use them. They created their own fraudulent version and then claimed it didn’t work.
Again they failed to convict him but he was still under indictment.
He was also busy fighting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which secured a temporary injunction in 1942 to prohibit him from advertising, even though his ads appeared only in medical trade journals. The injunction was made permanent in 1950.
Surprisingly, his indictments were dismissed in 1948. However, the very next day FDA inspectors came to his laboratories for a ‘routine inspection’. They were there every single day for three weeks including Sundays and Labor Day.
Several months later, tired of the strain he was working under, he decided to close his laboratories. Anyone now wanting treatment would have to travel to Detroit. However a group of Christian ministers took over manufacturing and interstate distribution. The FDA left this group alone.
Koch leaves the USA forever
On Thanksgiving Day 1948, Dr. Koch left for Brazil, never to return. One can hardly blame him.
By 1950, 4000 doctors were using Koch therapies and even holding their own conferences. Yet by 1958 orders dried up and manufacture of the product ceased. Doctors had been increasingly threatened, brought before state and county medical boards, and in many cases lost their licenses. Even sympathetic doctors became too fearful of persecution to carry on.
During the period his treatments were used, the Haley book estimates there were half a million recoveries from cancer and other diseases. In the course of his two court trials, Dr. Koch himself presented 200 cases of cures, mostly of terminal cancer, with full diagnoses, biopsies and medical reports.
There were many astonishing cases of recovery. In one, the cancer had eaten through the patient’s arm bone. Just skin and muscle connected the lower to the upper arm, which had to be kept in a sling. Some months later, following a single shot of glyoxylide, the bone had grown back, the arm was completely normal and the patient returned to work.
In another case, a man was in the final stages of metastatic stomach cancer. Half the stomach wall had been destroyed, as confirmed by x-rays. After a single shot of glyoxylide the trend of the disease reversed. Six months later he was back working on the farm again.
The ability of badly damaged organs to regrow was one of the most astounding aspects of the treatment.
Today few have heard of the work of William F. Koch. If the Haley account is even half true, he should have received a Nobel Prize. Instead the medical establishment protected its own interests – and it’s possible that a cheap, simple, and effective cancer cure, demonstrated in many thousands of cases and used legally for thirty years, has been lost to the world.
As one doctor put it regarding the Koch catalysts, “After using them I felt I’d never practiced medicine before.”
Lee Euler, Publisher