There’s a line from a movie that I like to quote sometimes when I feel obligated to blog once more about a previously covered topic that I’ve become tired of. It comes from The Godfather, Part III and features aging mafia don Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) expressing frustration over being pulled back into the family “business” that he thought he had finished, all with an immortal line, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” As I sit and type this, I’m feeling that same energy about claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause “turbo cancer.” Heck, I had even had an idea for a post today that had nothing to do with COVID-19 or vaccines, but, again, I’m feeling the energy of this video right now, and I go once more into the fray, particularly given that the person who pulled me back in is someone whom I never would have predicted even a few months ago, an eminent oncologist and cancer biologist whose research greatly influenced me (and whose work I used to cite a lot) when I was in graduate school in the 1990s, Prof. Wafik El-Deiry.

Before I get into the latest “turbo cancer” claims, I will note that the last time I published a post on this blog about the claim that COVID-19 vaccines somehow cause fast-growing “turbo” cancers and/or stimulate the “turbo-charged” growth of cancers in remission was late last year; so, in fairness, I guess that it is not unreasonable to write an update, even if I did do a couple of other posts over at my not-so-secret other blog in the interim. The claim has, as all dubious antivax claims do, mutated and metastasized. (What can I say? I’m a cancer surgeon and cancer biologist. I sometimes can’t resist borrowing terms from cancer to describe dubious claims, misinformation, and disinformation.) When last I discussed the concept of “turbo cancer” nine months ago, I could not ascertain when the term had been invented and who had invented it, but I did know who was promoting it, doctors like a family doctor named James Hoffe:

A physician who more recently started promoting the idea of “turbo cancer” is Dr. William Makis, a nuclear medicine radiologist who frequently misrepresents himself as an “oncologist.” I noted on his X (Twitter) feed that he appears to have taken up the “turbo cancer” banner sometime around February or March, for example:

Since then he’s been relentless in promoting the idea of “turbo cancer” supposedly caused by COVID-19 vaccines, for example, a few weeks ago he was claiming that “turbo cancers” were “decimating” teachers who had been forced to be vaccinated.

Indeed, here is a post from Dr. Makis published while I was still writing this SBM post:

It is promoting a recent article on his Substack (because of course he has a monetized Substack) entitled TURBO CANCER – Hepatobiliary System (Part 3) – Stage 4 COLON Cancer – Why are COVID-19 mRNA Vaccinated getting these types of Turbo Cancers? – 30 recent tragic cases. Unfortunately, it’s paywalled, meaning that I can’t go through it in detail. However, fortunately I have other sources to see what Makis is claiming. Unfortunately, the source that “pulled me back in,” so to speak was one that I really wish hadn’t, namely the aforementioned Dr. El-Deiry, who Tweeted/posted this over the weekend:

Because Dr. El-Deiry has a blue check and the whole post won’t embed, I will cite it in its entirety, for the benefit of those of you who don’t have (or no longer have) an X/Twitter account:

I watched this interview that speaks of persecution of scientists and physicians who are reporting cancers or looking into mechanisms in the setting of COVID vaccines. The concerns are about repeated boosters that ultimately dampen the very immune system they are boosting. Description of turbo cancers sound a lot like hyperprogression and sounds awfully similar to p53 with the range of tumors among young people.

Should this be ignored or should it be investigated as part of the risk:benefit ratio for different age groups who are getting 5th and 6th booster shots 3 years into the COVID pandemic.


William @MakisMD MD a Canadian oncologist gives a 30 minute interview describing that clinical oncologists are seeing more cancers among younger people in certain professions with mandated vaccines. Breast, colon, brain, lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia cancers. Also rare cancers such as angioimmunoblastic lymphoma, or infiltrating basiloid carcinoma. Canadian doctors, teachers, etc. He mentions a surge in go fund me pages with younger people with cancer “that we haven’t seen before.” He talks about other side effects such as sudden death or heart attacks or people too sick to work. He mentions turbo-cancers in pregnant women and young kids as young as 12. He says turbo cancers including among young people will be a long-term effect of COVID vaccination and that they are rising. He says the cancers are treatment resistant and that more research into their mechanisms would be helpful. A rise in all cause mortality among 18-24 worldwide is mentioned. It is mentioned that only 5-6% of Canadians have taken boosters in the last 6 months.

He describes in detail several possible mechanisms that could lead to cancer in susceptible individuals.
1- He says the liposomal nanoparticles or LNP go systemic in the body.
2- Pseudouridine modification of the mRNA vaccine which stabilizes the RNA suppresses innate immune surveillance by dampening activity of toll-like receptors.
3- DNA fragments might integrate thereby disrupting tumor suppressor genes.
4- Plasmid DNA may be taken up by the microbiome which can amplify it. 5- Repeated shots cause shift to IgG4 which is associated with tolerance and seems associated with more flu or repeated COVID infection.
“The more doses the more damage to the immune system”
The interview includes mention of
@P_J_Buckhaults @Kevin_McKernan Angus Dalgleish among others.
Doctors being persecuted for causing vaccine hesitancy.

It’s a sad day for science if scientists can’t ask scientific questions and are not supported to investigate them. This is not about anti-vaxx. It’s about risks among certain groups that may be more susceptible to adverse events plus general information. Are they fear-mongering or providing discussion and insight into molecular mechanisms in the tradition of science and medicine? I believe more research is needed on those whose cancers are growing faster or on material from those who die in temporal association to vaccine boosters. These may be rare events but they need to be talked about, understood and known better as potential risks. This should be done in a safe environment as part of science and medicine with no politics.

I was gobsmacked when I read this.

When an eminent scientist is a bit too trusting…

I must admit that it is very disturbing to me to see someone as eminent as Dr. El-Deiry lending his reputation built up over more than three decades actually posting a video by antivax conspiracy theorist Del Bigtree. And make no mistake, Del Bigtree has been a major antivax conspiracy theorist and misinformation spreader since at least 2016 when he produced the antivax conspiracy film VAXXED, with the godfather of the modern antivaccine movement Andrew Wakefield, who made his directorial debut with the film. His video podcast The Highwire has since served as an outlet for a relentless promotion of antivax misinformation of the worst sort. Let’s put it this way. If you appear on The Highwire with Del Bigtree, at least one of two things are true about you. You are almost certainly antivax or, as sometimes happens, you’ve made a huge mistake.

Let me also make three brief observations before I discuss Dr. Makis’s claims in more depth. First, it is, as Dr. El-Deiry observes, good to be open minded. It is not, however, good to be so open-minded that your brains fall out. His belief that scientific “truth” will always drive out the lies is painfully naive, and I would have thought that a cancer biologist who has been studying tumor suppressor genes for over three decades would recognize the dodginess of the claims being made. Apparently I was wrong. Second, the reaction to physicians and scientists who have started to spread misinform has nothing to do with “persecution.” Rather, as I like to say, it’s about quality control, not censorship. and Dr. El-Deiry’s apparent affinity for the universal narrative of conspiracy theorists, that they are being “persecuted” by nefarious forces who want to cover up some great evil, is disturbing. Finally, the video itself mentions a veritable host of doctors spreading misinformation about COVID-19 who have been on The Highwire before—whom, hilariously, Bigtree describes as “some of the greatest scientists and doctors in the world”—such as Dr. Peter McCullough, Dr. Paul Marik, and Dr. Robert “inventor of mRNA vaccines” Malone, all of whom are antivax conspiracy theorists. Dr. McCullough, for example, has been promoting the “died suddenly” conspiracy theory about vaccines and sells unproven supplements to treat “COVID-19 vaccine injury.” Dr. Marik is one of the founders of the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), a group of now antivax doctors who have been selling dubious cures for COVID-19 since 2020, and Dr. Malone has become one of the most prolific spreaders of misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines since the mRNA vaccines were first announced, even before they were ever approved.

William Makis

Unsurprisingly, Bigtree introduces Dr. Makis as an oncologist, a claim that Dr. El-Deiry took at face value. He’s not. He’s a nuclear medicine physician, a radiologist. His ResearchGate profile even still says that, as does this legal decision. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. The problem is that he misrepresents himself as an oncologist. Moreover, he lost his medical license. I also note that Bigtree seems to claim that Dr. Makis invented the term “turbo cancer.” He clearly did not. As I pointed out before, it was a term being used in 2022, but Dr. Makis doesn’t seem to have glommed onto it until February or March of 2023, at least if his X/Twitter feed is any indication. I also can’t help but note that one of the studies apparently cited (there are no direct citations) showing an increase in cancer incidence among younger people ran from 1990-2019; in other words, the rise in cancer incidence predates the pandemic, but antivaxxers are misrepresenting the study as support for “turbo cancer”:

Dr. Makis and “turbo cancer”

Right at the beginning of the interview, Dr. Makis relates an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy who, according to him, developed stage IV brain cancer four weeks after a single dose of the Moderna vaccine. Of course, 12-year-olds have, alas, developed horrible brain cancers since, basically, forever. Indeed, I discussed more cases of children with brain cancer than I care to remember in debunking the treatments offered by cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski. This anecdote tells us nothing other than that Dr. Makis is prone to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Dr. Makis claims that he had never seen anything like this before, despite having diagnosed 20,000 cancers in his career, which makes me wonder: He’s diagnosed so many tumors but never a brain cancer in a child? Perhaps he wasn’t a pediatric doc. Various forms of brain cancer are, unfortunately, sometimes pediatric tumors. It is also true that the incidence of childhood and adolescent brain tumors has been increasing, but the increase dates to long before the pandemic and has been relatively slow and there is no evidence of a large spike since COVID-19 vaccines were recommended for children.

In any event, Dr. Makis starts out claiming that there has been an epidemic of what he calls “turbo cancer” since the COVID-19 vaccines came out, adding that oncologists “don’t know how to treat” these cancers and that after such tumors are surgically excised doctors discover that the tumor has already spread. My reaction to claims like this is that there’s a phenomenon common among antivaxxers and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists since the pandemic hit, specifically their tendency to discover a phenomenon that they hadn’t known about before and then claiming that it’s something never seen (or only very rarely seen) before the vaccines rolled out. One good example is sudden cardiac death in young people, a sad phenomenon that was identified as a syndrome 50 years ago and has long been so known that we have identified gene mutations and anatomic abnormalities that predispose to sudden cardiac death. It’s the very reason why schools require sports physicals before children and adolescents can participate in strenuous and contact sports. As I like to say: Just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new, and I repeat that to Dr. Makis, who opines about advanced breast cancers in women in their 20s and 30s, which I saw before the pandemic, most likely because I’m in a tertiary care cancer center. (Years ago, one of my colleagues, now retired, saw breast cancer in a 14 year old, which is rare.)

In addition, there is no evidence that an unusual number of people are dying of cancer since the vaccines rolled out, as a friend of the blog pointed out:

Next up, instead of looking at the actual medical literature, Dr. Makis looked at GoFundMe pages for young people raising funds with cancer. Shockingly, Bigtree actually noted something semi-reasonable, namely that there is no way to know how many of these people were vaccinated against COVID-19, saying that we just “assume” that. Too bad he didn’t also point out that the number of GoFundMe pages for young people raising money for treatment of advanced cancers could also correlate with a lot of other things other than actual cancer incidence (such as lack of insurance that becomes more prevalent during economic downturns, belief in alternative medicine cures (lots of Burzynski patients use GoFundMe to try to pay for his quackery), and the like. Instead, Bigtree asked rhetorical questions like, “When do we remember this many young people getting cancer at the same time?” and “When do we remember this many athletes collapsing with heart attacks?” It’s an interesting question, but more like one of selective memory. After all, there is a veritable industry of misinformation promoting these stories; so of course we “remember” them more! Dr. Makis, for his part, blames this nonexistent epidemic of “turbo cancer” on vaccines, claiming to have observed it in doctors and other professions for whom vaccines were mandated. Again, he presents no evidence other than anecdotal evidence.

This brings us to Bigtree asking about potential “mechanisms” by which mRNA vaccines could supposedly cause cancer. First up, as listed in Dr. El-Deiry’s post above as #2, Dr. Makis blames the pseudouridine base used in the vaccines. Of course, pseudouridine is used because native, unmodified mRNA has a very short half-life—minutes to hours, generally, and I know, having studied mRNA half-life for a gene that I first identified in the 1990s—which is too short to produce sufficient spike protein to result in a useful immune response. Of course, antivaxxers will exaggerate the other way and claim that the modified mRNA never goes away and keeps pumping out spike protein almost indefinitely, but that is nowhere near true. In any event, Dr. Makis cites work that pseudouridine-containing RNA can decrease the activity of proteins known as Toll-like receptors, which is in part how these modified mRNAs escape degradation by the immune system. Dr. Makis, of course, claims without evidence that the mRNA vaccines damage cancer surveillance. It’s all hand-waving, of course, based on papers that did find this but have shown no link to cancer. In brief, there is no evidence that modified mRNA “dampens the immune response” to cancer, including the 2005 paper by Kariko et al that found that the modified mRNA did dampen the immune response to…RNA!

Next up, Dr. Makis leans into the claim that the mRNA from the vaccine can be “reverse-transcribed” into the genome or that the “DNA contamination” of plasmid fragments can somehow integrate into the genome and cause insertional mutagenesis and cancer. I’ve dealt with both of these claims in detail before; so I won’t reinvent the wheel (much). For the latter claim, Bigtree plays a brief snippet of a video that I recently debunked elsewhere in which Dr. Philip Buckhaults promotes an unpublished study that hasn’t been peer-reviewed to fear monger about “contamination” of the vaccines with residual plasmid DNA from the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, last month Prof. El-Deiry found that testimony convincing as well:

As for the claim that the mRNA can be “reverse-transcribed” into DNA—the dreaded cDNA coding for the evil spike protein, no less!—that “integrates” into the genome, that is a claim made a long time ago that was based on a very bad scientific study that has never been replicated. It was a very artificial system used in vitro, anyway, and it’s not as though DNA in the bloodstream hasn’t been extensively studied for a long time.

Another claim made by Dr. Makis is that this contaminating DNA can be picked up by our “gut bacteria” and alter the microbiome of those bacteria, to unknown effect. What Dr. Makis, even as he cites Philip Buckhaults and Kevin McKernan’s fear mongering about DNA “contamination,” fails to mention is that even Buckhaults’s and McKernan’s work, if you take it at face value (which, obviously, I do not), shows that the fragments of DNA in the vaccine are nearly all very small, averaging in the 100 bp range. They don’t code for anything, they can’t induce bacteria or other cells to code for anything. There is no good biological mechanism described by which they could get into the nucleus and insert themselves into the genome, and even if they could mutational mutagenesis events from such a process that could give rise to cancer would be very rare, as they would have to specifically inactivate a tumor suppressor gene or activate an oncogene. Indeed, given the multiple-hit hypothesis of cancer, it’s unlikely that just affecting one tumor suppressor or one oncogene would be enough. Multiple cancer-promoting integrations would have to happen in the same cell.

Predictably, next Dr. Makis fear mongers about the lipid nanoparticles that are used to hold the mRNA molecules and that fuse to cells in order to introduce the mRNA into them, so that their transcriptional machinery can start using the mRNA as a template to make spike protein. His concern is that the lipid nanoparticles are “unmodified” (whatever that means) and that they “go systemic.” I’ve discussed the biodistribution studies for the lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) before. You might recall that very soon after the vaccines were introduced antivaxxers began fear mongering about “sterility” and female fertility on the basis of a Japanese biodistribution study of the LNPs used in the Pfizer vaccine that found that the lipid nanoparticles did lodge in the ovaries. As I pointed out at the time, the study used a huge dose of LNPs injected intravenously, not intramuscularly (the way vaccines are injected) and then measured where in the body they ended up. Peak accumulation in the ovaries was 0.095% (or less than 1:1,000 of the total dose of lipid nanoparticle. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Makis is unable to produce any evidence even tenuously linking these LNPs to an increased risk of cancer—or even to mechanistic studies in vitro or in mice that would suggest they could cause cancer. (And, no, this study wouldn’t have counted even if Dr. Makis had mentioned it.)

Finally, Dr. Makis handwaves about “antibody shift” in which the immune system shifts to a different kind of antibody (IgG4) after repeated exposures to an antigen promoting immune tolerance for that antigen. His claim is that this “antibody shift” happens after repeated COVID-19 boosters and then predisposes to cancer, as well as to infection with a number of other pathogens. As I like to say, I am not an immunologist, but I do know that this is pure nonsense, thanks to a number of social media scientists and doctors who do know what they are talking about and have taken the time to address this claim:

Let’s just say that the question of antibody switching and COVID-19 vaccines is far more nuanced than what Dr. Makis suggests and that there is no good evidence to support his fear mongering. Nor is there good evidence that the vaccines can cause autoimmunity:

Finally, Dr. Makis dons the mantle of the persecuted brave maverick scientist—and not just about COVID-19. He claims to have treated many patients with radioisotopes as a nuclear medicine doctor. In fairness, it is true that some cancers are treated by nuclear medicine doctors with radioisotopes, Thyroid cancer, for instance, is treated with radioactive iodine, which preferentially goes to the thyroid gland. However, it’s a huge stretch to make the claim that Dr. Makis is an oncologist. Again, he is a radiologist who specializes in nuclear medicine imaging, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an important specialty in oncology. What is wrong with Dr. Makis is the claim that he makes that he was “curing” 80-85% of his stage IV neuroendocrine cancer patients, but that the Canadian government shut him down for some reason because they “didn’t like the program.” He further claims that the government, after shutting him down and taking away his license, is rebuilding his program, but under government control. Somehow, given Dr. Makis’ history, I’d be more prone to believe that the government had a very good reason for shutting down his operation and stripping him of his license.

Bigtree, of course, calls this “socialism,” in which the government “stole” Dr. Makis’ technology. But have no fear! His loss of license has freed him to “speak out” against “turbo cancer” and all manner of horrific “vaccine injuries”! He even claims to have found leukemias that can kill in a manner of days or even hours.

Bigtree also cites a paper co-authored by Peter McCullough (whom, as we showed before, is pure antivax conspiracy theorist) and Stephanie Seneff, who prepandemic had claimed that by 2025 GMOs and vaccines would result in all children being autistic, which, if you know the background of these claims, should be all you need to see to know that Brandolini’s law is in full effect.

It is not about “free speech” or “persecution”

I am not saying that every scientifically reasonable concern about vaccines that have been distributed to billions of people now should not be the subject of scientific investigation. What I differ about is what constitutes a scientifically reasonable concern. To know what concerns are and are not scientifically reasonable, you have to know a few things. First, you need to know the science and potential mechanisms. Dr. Makis, unsurprisingly, claims that we are not studying these “mechanisms,” when his own discussion indicates that we have. . Second, you need to know the specific misrepresentations of science used by antivaxxers to promote fear, uncertainty, and doubt about vaccines. Finally, contrary to Dr. El-Deiry’s claims, who is making these claims matters. I know he’s been on NIH study sections before. When grant applications are discussed, the criteria used to rank it include the qualifications and track record of the investigators, as well as the overall environment in which they work. He wouldn’t question that that should be considered for NIH applications. So why does he react so strongly to criticizing quacks and cranks like Dr. Makis based on their long track record of spreading misinformation about COVID-29 and vaccines?

Nor is it about “free speech,” as Prof. El-Deiry claims:

Full quote:

Are you an advocate for suppression of free speech? It’s been stated repeatedly this is not anti-vaccine and so I’ll point this out as you list pro-vax in your profile. If you are able to debate about facts, mechanisms and concerns then that would be positive. The reason the post was made was exactly about the intimidation and persecution you’re promulgating and claims of misinformation. Personal attacks on scientists or anyone else is not constructive at all. A scientific conversation is not possible with someone with your attitude.

Nor is it about “censorship” or “repression,” as Dr. El-Deiry claims:


Again, Dr. El-Deiry’s attitude is either willfully or just painfully naive. He is either utterly unaware of the well-funded networks that exist to spread misinformation and/or he is sympathetic to the misinformation being spread. I am having a hard time envisioning another possibility. I like to cite the famous adage from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In science, I like to rephrase that somewhat to say something like, “With great scientific reputation comes great responsibility.” The bottom line is that Dr. El-Deiry has a 30-year career studying cancer, tumor suppressor genes, and, more recently, tumor immunology. He is the director of a new cancer center. I’ll just reiterate that his work in the 1990s was work that I cited often as a graduate student and researcher. When he platforms cranks—and, Dr. El-Deiry’s call for “civility” and disdain for “attacking” such “scientists” as Dr. Makis and others notwithstanding, these are cranks whose views he is platforming and presenting not as the fear mongering they are but as scientifically credible concerns that demand urgent investigation—it matters. A lot. Moreover, criticizing the views and behaviors of the likes of Dr. Makis, removing their licenses to practice, and other sanctions are not “persecution,” defamation, or “censorship” of scientific debate. They are desperately needed quality control.

I hope that Dr. El-Deiry will eventually understand that.

Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.