The California Department of Public Health fined several doctors for injecting fecal bacteria into the brains of three cancer patients at the University of California-Davis Medical Center. The patients who consented to the highly experimental procedure, all had end stage glioblastoma multiforme and had not been responsive to conventional treatments.
Doctors suggested an untested treatment whereby bacteria from the bowels would be injected into the patients’ brains in hopes of creating infections that would destroy the remaining tumor cells.
According to the state’s report, the fecal bacteria created infections but with very different results. Patients reportedly went into seizures and developed symptoms of septic infection or bacteria in the blood. One patient died shortly after the treatment, experiencing several other bacterial infections and subsequently losing breathing and feeding functions. Another patient died after displaying symptoms of blood infection.
The report acknowledges that the patients were informed that the treatment was experimental and had not yet been tested on humans, however, it also claims that the doctors had no contingencies in place if the treatment went wrong. In fact, some resulting infections were treated with antibiotics while others were not and doctors could not explain the inconsistencies in their approach.
When interviewed by state investigators, hospital officials said that the treatment “had not been proven to be effective,” had a “high risk for harm” and they could not define a clear benefit for the patients.