1930s, New York, New York
Helen Coley Nauts was sorting through her late father’s papers when she learned he had gotten the immune system to fight cancer.
Her father, Dr. William B. Coley, had been searching medical records for a way to treat sarcoma (a bone cancer that had taken one of his favorite patients) when he noticed that one sarcoma patient had recovered after contracting a bacterial infection.
Coley began experiments to see if infections could help patients fight cancer.
Coley's results, while encouraging, failed to gain traction in the medical community. His daughter decided to change that.
1930s - 1953, New York, New York
As Helen read and reread her father’s work, two things became clear:
1. His discovery had the potential to save lives.
2. She, despite being a homemaker with no medical education, had to do something about it.
Determined to help find new cancer treatments, Helen spent all her waking hours looking for experts to continue her father’s work. “I can't play, because people are dying when I'm not working,” Helen's daughter recalls her mother saying.
Despite Helen’s passion, few people took her seriously, pointing out her lack of training and education. Helen refused to take "no" for an answer.
In 1953, after advocating for over 10 years, Helen worked with Oliver R. Grace Sr. to open the Cancer Research Institute, an organization dedicated to exploring the immune system's ability to fight cancer.
Present Day, Los Angeles, California
Today, researchers at UCLA and around the world have found ways to spur the immune system to fight cancer using immunotherapy treatments.
One UCLA researcher, Dr. Antoni Ribas, found that combining immunotherapies helped patients fight otherwise untreatable cancers. His team recently pinpointed a three-drug combination effective against advanced melanoma.
Enthusiasm for immunotherapy grows stronger every day thanks to the curiosity of Dr. William B. Coley (today called the Father of Immunotherapy) and the determination of his daughter, Helen Coley Nauts (the unofficial mother of immunotherapy).