Livingston-Wheeler Therapy

Livingston-Wheeler Therapy

Livingston-Wheeler Therapy

Common Names

  • Livingston therapy

For Patients & Caregivers

Livingston-Wheeler therapy has not been shown to treat cancer.

Livingston-Wheeler therapy is classified as a “metabolic therapy.” It involves several treatments that supposedly stimulate the immune system (BCG vaccine and a vaccine made from the individual’s own urine), a strict vegetarian diet, antioxidants, and detoxification via coffee enemas. It is available at the Livingston-Wheeler Clinic in San Diego, California. Virginia Livingston-Wheeler was a doctor in the early 20th century who believed that cancer is caused by a bacterium called Progenitor cryptocides, which she claimed to have isolated from cancer tissues.

Experts have studied the strict vegetarian diets required by metabolic therapies like Livingston-Wheeler, and have concluded that they are deficient in important nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamins D, vitamin B12, and protein. Such diets may be unsuitable for cancer patients.

  • To treat allergies
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat arthritis
    There are no data to back this claim.
  • To treat cancer
    One study found similar survival rates between patients treated with the Livingston-Wheeler therapy and with conventional cancer therapies at a major hospital, but the patients using the Livingston-Wheeler therapy had more side effects and lower quality of life. No other studies support this use.
  • To treat HIV and AIDS
    There are no studies to support this claim.
  • The American Cancer Society strongly urges cancer patients not to seek treatment at the Livingston-Wheeler Clinic, as no evidence has supported the safety or effectiveness of the treatments offered there.
  • Nutrient deficiencies (calcium, vitamin B12, protein), anemia, and malabsorption may result from metabolic diets.
  • The autogenous vaccine given at the Livingston-Wheeler Clinic can cause malaise, aching, slight fever, and tenderness at the injection site.
  • There have been a number of deaths associated with prolonged use of coffee enemas (on the order of four per day for days or weeks).
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For Healthcare Professionals

The Livingston-Wheeler Therapy is a “metabolic therapy” available at the Livingston-Wheeler Clinic in San Diego, CA. It involves a strict vegetarian diet, BCG vaccine, coffee enemas, autogenous vaccine, vitamins, antibiotics, antioxidants, nutritional counseling, and support groups/counseling. Patients use it to treat cancer, arthritis, allergies, and AIDS. The regimen is based on the theory that cancer is caused by the bacterium Progenitor cryptocides, which developer Virginia Livingston-Wheeler claims to have isolated in a wide variety of cancer tissues (3) (4). A weakened immune system supposedly allows the bacterium to grow, and consequently the therapy’s focus is immune-stimulation.

A self-selected, matched-cohort, prospective comparison of patients at Livingston-Wheeler Clinic and a conventional cancer center found no difference in survival times between groups, but consistently lower quality of life in the Livingston-Wheeler cohort (6). Although clinic activities are illegal under California’s 1959 Cancer Act, no legal action has been taken by the state. Metabolic diets may result in nutrient deficiencies (5). Repeated use of coffee enemas has been linked to several deaths from serious infection and electrolyte imbalance (2).

The American Cancer Society strongly urges cancer patients not to seek treatment at the Livingston-Wheeler Clinic (1).

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer treatment
  • HIV and AIDS

Dr. Livingston-Wheeler claims that the bacterium Progenitor cryptocides is ubiquitous, but a weakened immune system allows it to become pathogenic and cause cancer; that the bacterium induces neoplastic changes when injected into animals and produces large amounts of hCG, which accounts for the rapid growth of cancer cells and cancer-related cachexia (4). Livingston-Wheeler and her husband also claimed to consistently find P. cryptocides in the fresh and cultured blood of cancer patients visualized by dark- and light field microscopy, but failed to specify the criteria by which they distinguished P. cryptocides from other bodies present in the bloodstream (3). Presence of the bacterium in healthy subjects is explained by claims that the bacterium is “ubiquitous” and “latent.” Independent analyses of cultures provided by Wheeler identified the bacteria as Staph epidermis, Strep faecalis, Staph faecalis, and other unrelated bacteria, and found that many of them produced hCG (1).

While the Livingston-Wheeler diet has similarities to the recommendations made by the American Cancer Society, its nutrient deficits (calcium, iron, vitamins D and B12, and protein) are unsuitable for some cancer patients.

The American Cancer Society strongly urges cancer patients not to seek treatment at the Livingston-Wheeler Clinic, as no evidence has supported the efficacy of the treatments offered there (1).

Common (metabolic diet): Nutrient deficiencies (calcium, vit B12, protein), anemia, and malabsorption may result from metabolic diets (1).
Reported (Autogenous vaccine): Malaise, aching, slight fever, and tenderness at injection site (1).
Case Reports (Coffee enemas):
Death attributable to fluid and electrolyte imbalance causing pleural and pericardial effusions after use of coffee enemas, 4 per day for 8 weeks (2).


  1. American Cancer Society. Livingston-Wheeler therapy. Ca: Cancer J Clin 1990;40:103-8.

  2. Eisele JW, Reay DT. Deaths related to coffee enemas. JAMA 1980;244:1608-9.

  3. Livingston VW, Livingston AM. Some cultural, immunological, and biochemical properties of Progenitor cryptocides. Trans N Y Acad Sci 1974;36:569-82.

  4. Dwyer JT. Unproven nutritional remedies and cancer. Nutr Rev 1992;50:106-9.

  5. Richardson MA, et al. Assessment of outcomes at alternative medicine cancer clinics: a feasibility study. J Altern Complement Med 2001;7:19-32.

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