I hate to end the week on a down note, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s been a while since I’ve written about Stanislaw Burzynski. I’m sure you recall Burzynski. He’s a hero in the alternative medicine world, having been cast as a martyr to The Man (i.e., the FDA and Big Pharma) because of his selling of a dubious cancer cure that he calls antineoplastons. Although he’s been selling his questionable cancer treatments for thirty years now, he’s recently been in the news a lot lately thanks to a credulous paean to his activities in the form of a movie that was released in 2010 called, unimaginatively enough, Burzynski: The Movie. As I pointed out late last year in my review of the movie, it is indeed a credulous paean that portrays Burzynski as a Brave Maverick Doctor battling The Man, all in order to bring The One True Cure for Cancer to the people. He was also featured in Suzanne Somers’ encyclopedia of cancer quackery Knockout, which could best be viewed as advertising for every major cancer quack you can think of. Burzynski is also known for siccing his attack poodle on skeptical bloggers who have the temerity to criticize Burzynski for peddling an unproven cancer cure, charging his patients for taking part in his clinical trials, and his “personalized medicine for dummies” approach to targeted therapy.

All the while, patient after desperate cancer patient is drawn like flies to the proverbial lantern to Burzynski’s clinic in Houston, lured by the promise of a cure for the incurable, willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to realize that promise, no matter how many fundraisers are required or how many journalists throw away basic journalistic skepticism to pen what are in essence commercials for Burzynski’s clinic. Meanwhile, his patients drop like flies. I realize that the vast majority of these patients would have died anyway. That Burzynski failed to cure them is not the issue. The issue is how he sells a useless therapy, how he represents his therapy as “natural” but uses lots of chemotherapy anyway, how he uses extremely expensive cocktails of targeted therapies with unknown toxicities, and how he charges patients hundreds of thousands of dollars for taking part in his clinical trials, which have yet to validate his antineoplastons as efficacious and safe after 20 years of trying. In other words, Burzynski charges huge sums of money for false hope.

And now another young cancer patient has paid the price. Let’s jump back in time a couple of months:

The Mackey family in Danvers is in the midst of a battle that no family ever wants to find themselves in — a fight against a relentless brain tumor in their oldest daughter, Rachael Mackey, 28.

A Danvers native and graduate of Danvers High School, Class of 2002, Rachael, was just beginning to create her life, graduating from Bryant College and working as a model as she traveled the world and developed her own small business, when she began to experience intense headaches.

Doctors trouble shooted the headaches treating Mackey for potential migraines and even prescribing eye glasses to see if that would help, but the headaches would not dissipate.

“It was like having a four-month headache,” Rachael said. “There was so much pressure in my head.”

Her mother Kathy Mackey said that when Rachael was slated to travel to Indonesia, her family encouraged her to have an MRI before she left.

The news wasn’t good. Mackey had a 7 cm grade II oligoastrocytoma. In 2010 she underwent a craniotomy to remove the tumor. Unfortunately, as these tumors are wont to do, her cancer recurred in December 2011. Mackey underwent a second surgery in June, but apparently her surgeons were unable to resect the tumor. Consequently, it was recommended that she undergo chemotherapy and radiation, and it was estimated that there was only about a 3% chance that the tumor would responde significantly to the regimen.

Now put yourself in Mackey’s place. You’re 28. You’re a beautiful young woman. You’re faced with a horrific, almost certainly fatal diagnosis. Your life is likely to be measured in months—possibly even weeks—rather than the decades more 28-year-olds expect to live. No career. No marriage. No children. No dreams realized. I get it, at least as much as anyone who hasn’t faced such a diagnosis can get it. You want to live. You’re willing to do almost anything to live. Heck, I’m well into my middle age now, and I would still want to live. I’d probably want to live even if I were 80, although perhaps not as strongly anymore, having had a good life.

Enter Burzynski and his antineoplastons:

During their research, they discovered an alternative cancer therapy in Houston, Texas, that was reported to have some success in treating brain tumors. The Burzynski clinic, run by Stanislaw R. Burzynski, MD, Ph.D, has been a source of controversy within the medical community. Many doctors deem the gene targeted therapies as misguided, yet many patients claim it saved their lives when other traditional treatments could not.

After enduring two major brain surgeries and given the low success rates and horrible side effects that radiation and chemotherapy would have, Mackey wants to try the program at Burzynski Clinic.

“I like that they treat the cause and stimulation of your cancer — not just the symptoms,” Mackey said who at the moment is asymptomatic. “Because without treating the cause, the tumor will just continue to come back. Our goal is to defeat the tumor and not have to worry about it for the rest of my life.”

The clinic has currently been approved for Phase III Clinical Trial for Antineoplastons treatment and Mackey’s brain tumor met the criteria to be accepted as a patient in the trial.

There’s that damned phase III clinical trial again! I would almost kill to find out how that particular trial was ever approved. (That’s metaphorical, people. I wouldn’t actually kill anyone, but leave it to a Burzynski fan to try to quote mine me.) The reason, of course, is that Burzynski wields that phase III trial like a club against his critics, with its implication that because the FDA approved his trial there must be something to it. Personally, having pored over Burzynski’s publications, I just don’t see it, which is why I’d love to see the preliminary data and rationale upon which Burzynski got this trial approved. I also can’t help but note that if you go to ClinicalTrials.gov and look up Burzynski’s phase III trial, you’ll see that it was approved in December 2010 but is still, nearly two years later, not recruiting any patients. This is quite unusual. Most investigators can’t wait to accrue patients to their clinical trials, and most institutional review boards (IRBs) and clinical trial offices get very antsy if a trial is open for a year and isn’t reaching its accrual targets, much less not accruing even one patient. I’ve seen it many times at the two cancer centers where I’ve worked. I suppose that’s the advantage of owning the “research institute” and the IRB. I’m sure no one’s giving Burzynski any crap about not having opened his phase III trial yet other than cranky skeptical bloggers like myself, and, with his money flow continuing apace, Burzynski can afford to ignore us.

Be that as it may, I also hate how Burzynski claims to treat the cause of cancer more than oncologists. Let’s just put it this way. In the unlikely event that antineoplastons actually demonstrated significant antitumor activity, they’d be chemotherapy, every bit as much as doxorubicin, taxotere, or cyclophosphamide. To label them as somehow “natural” and “nontoxic” is nonsense, a lie. It’s also about as unethical as one can imagine to do what Burzynski does, which in this case was to charge Mackey $30,000 for her initial treatment and then $7,000 a month after that, with an estimated total cost of $100,000.

As so many other Burzynski patients have done, Mackey and her family took to fundraising, holding a yoga fundraiser and a golf fundraiser, among other fundraisers, and, of course, taking to the web and Twitter. Knowing that Mackey died on October 28, it’s truly saddening to read her Twitter feed and blog. While I encourage you to read Mackey’s Twitter feed and her blog, I would strongly discourage any of you from commenting there with anything other than messages of sympathy and support. Remember, the family has just lost a daughter at far too young an age. There is nothing to be gained from recriminations and criticisms on her blogs. I trust that most of you won’t even think about doing that once you see her story in more depth.

Bob Blaskiewicz over at Skeptical Humanities has started a Storify page that chronicles Rachael Mackey’s experiences with the Burzynski Clinic. It begins with a CT scan that showed that Mackey’s tumor had started to grow again and continues with her video blogs:

Here she is after the antineoplaston therapy has started. Note that it’s dated a mere eight days before her death:

About a week after starting antineoplaston therapy), about a day before she posted the above video, Mackey Tweeted:

Unfortunately, she was mistaken about the significance of her symptoms. Eight days later, Rachael Mackey died. We don’t know the details. We don’t need to know. She had a terminal cancer, and most likely it was simply progression, although one can’t rule out the possibility that the antineoplastons hastened her death. They are not nearly as nontoxic as Burzynski claims, as I’ve documented multiple times before. We can never know, however. Chances are, this unfortunate young woman simply died of her disease and the antineoplastons did nothing to slow its progression.

Burzynski fans frequently attack a straw man in which skeptics are said to blame Burzynski for the deaths of patients like Rachael Mackey. They like to present Burzynski as taking on hopeless cases, all in the name of advancing cancer care by “personalizing” it (although, one should note, that “personalization” and “targeting” almost always includes antineoplastons in Burzynski’s hands, which doesn’t represent much in the way of “personalization” to me). He’s presented as the Brave Maverick Doctor willing to take on The Establishment because, well, he just cares so deeply about his patients, and, given the really sick patients who flock to his clinic, Burzynski can’t really be blamed if nearly all of them die, can he? It’s not fair, right? After all, nearly all of them would have died anyway with conventional therapy, right?

Not exactly.

When it comes to caring for patients with advanced cancers, there’s more to consider than whether the patient lives or dies or how long she lives. In the case of terminally ill patients who can’t be saved, there are two goals that are foremost. First, we want to prolong life as much as we can, as long as the side effects are not prohibitive. Then, if it’s not possible to prolong life (or not possible to do so without unacceptable side effects), there’s palliation, which is arguably the most important of all. It’s also something that “conventional medicine” is becoming better and better at. There’s the chance to die at home with dignity. There’s not being forced to exhaust all of one’s resources (and often much of one’s family’s resources) and having to go to great lengths in the final months or even weeks of one’s life to raise tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for Burzynski’s treatments before death arrives. There’s providing a realistic picture of what the patient is likely to expect, so that she can put her affairs in order before she is unable to do so and make informed decisions about her health care. As difficult as it is, that’s real empowerment, not the false empowerment given when someone like Burzynski tells a patient that he can possibly save her where conventional medicine cannot. These are not insignificant things to cancer patients and their families. They are also exactly the things that Burzynski robs his patients of.

Comments

  1. #1 novalox
    December 10, 2012

    @mel

    Strike one, mel.

  2. #2 MarkL
    London
    December 10, 2012

    @Mel

    Onus probandi

    You do know how an argument is meant to work don’t you?

  3. #3 Alain
    December 10, 2012

    @ Mel,

    And yes, the vast majority of these required patients PAY to participate

    you gotta do better than that; I’m paid to do my clinical trial and I have been paid to be a research subject in many scientific studies. Furthermore, In all the clinical trials regarding big pharma’s medication, participant are being paid from 500$ to 2500$ (and some rare time, more than that) to participate. How come peoples have to pay to take part in a clinical trial?

    Can you explain that to me?

    Alain

  4. #4 Agashem
    December 10, 2012

    Oh, Alain, you write like so many of my relatives in L’Assomption speak!!! I love it!! And don’t look to Mel for an explanation of anything, she has her answer and she is sticking with it no matter what is presented to her….(BTW, yes I am French Canadian, but as an army brat, spoke mostly english at home)

  5. #5 Alain
    December 10, 2012

    @ Agashem

    Are you still in Montreal? perhaps we could go for a beer someday?

    Alain

  6. #6 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    December 10, 2012

    JDC go do your own research. Hint: there was an FDA CLINICAL trial that charged patients $5000-18,000 per treatment cycle depending on which treatment track was chosen…it ran from 1994-2011.

    New to this whole, “making a claim and providing proof of it” thing? That’s the way it works; we don’t do your work for you so put up or shut up.

  7. #7 Mel
    December 10, 2012

    Another happy patient….oh wait! Anedotal evidence doesnt count…until it does…

  8. #8 Lawrence
    December 10, 2012

    @Mel – so, where are those published studies again?

  9. #9 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    December 10, 2012

    Mel,

    We discussed Hannah Bradley on the other Burzynski thread a few days ago. She had surgery and radiation.

    Here’s the answer JGC posted on Dec. 5:

    Judith, regarding Hannah Bradley you are aware she underwent surgery for her cancer before becoming involved with Burzynski, right? According to the Team Hannah website “”The operation was a success and they managed to remove nearly all of the tumour.” (bold for emphasis)

  10. #10 Mel
    December 10, 2012

    The remainder of Hannahs tumor was enlarging and continued to GROW after surgery. This is why Burzynski was sought out in the first place. Now shrinking again after burzynski treatment… Which you would know if you bothered to watch tbe video!

  11. #11 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    December 10, 2012

    Now shrinking again after burzynski treatment… Which you would know if you bothered to watch tbe video!

    We prefer our science served up in reputable journals, not YooToob vids. Burzynski’s hacks have made mistakes numerous times with regards to their reports so yeah, anecdotes via video don’t count.

  12. #12 Lawrence
    December 10, 2012

    @Mel – quite a few “Dr. B” patients have YouTube videos, and most of them are now dead…..

  13. #13 Narad
    December 10, 2012

    Hint: there was an FDA CLINICAL trial that charged patients $5000-18,000 per treatment cycle depending on which treatment track was chosen…it ran from 1994-2011.

    Hint: You’ve only got four to choose from, or one if you want primary completion date to be the criterion.

    You do know how a search engine works, don’t you?

  14. #14 herr doktor bimler
    December 10, 2012

    Since EVERY form of modern cancer therapy is riddled with nasty side effects

    Regale me with the nasty side-effects of surgical excision of early-stage melanoma.

  15. #15 novalox
    December 10, 2012

    @mel

    strike two and strike three mel, yer out.

    So I guess that means you don’t have any shred of evidence that burzynski’s “treatment” is effective.

  16. #16 Mel
    December 10, 2012

    Yeah science mom, ancedotes dont count…unless you are Orac smearing Dr Burzynski and then ancedotes up the wazoo! Take a look at the title of this blog… Which science journal is Orac getting the Mackey stats from? None…just more youtoob video. Goes both ways just sayin’.

  17. #17 Mel
    December 10, 2012

    Herr doktor… Gee lets see… Sideeffects of melanoma excision….

    Keloid scarring
    Pain
    Nerve damage
    Infection
    Damage of healthy tissue
    Reaction to anesthetic
    Improper surgical margins (too wide or too narrow)
    ….

  18. #18 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    December 10, 2012

    Mel, Tu Quoque fallacies don’t fly either. Orac has written extensively about the implausibility of Burzynski’s claims and his trail of dead patients who would have been better off just doing nothing and enjoying some quality of life. He mocks Burzynski’s videos and testimonials as well he should.

    Now don’t you owe us some citations instead of lame attempts at distraction?

  19. #19 novalox
    December 10, 2012

    @mel

    Still cannot come up with any proof, instead throwing out ad hominems and distractions?

    Guess you just validated yourself as not having and proof at all of buryzinski’s failed ideas.

  20. #20 herr doktor bimler
    December 10, 2012

    Gee lets see… Sideeffects of melanoma excision…
    The use of the word “riddled with nasty side effects” left me expecting probable sequelae.

  21. #21 flip
    December 11, 2012

    @Mel

    I wonder if Flip is so concerned over saving people from toxic chemo therapy? Or how about radiation that burns off peoples hair and makes them sterile & deaf?

    Ah, so we’re heading straight for the typical “cut, poison, burn” crap?

    I am concerned that the medicine provided to us *all* is both effective and safe. I am also concerned that not enough people understand that both the risks *and* benefits should be included when making decisions.

    Traditional chemo
    Risks: side effects that can reduce enjoyment of life as well as health
    Benefits: cancer being cured and/or treated enough to delay death

    Burzyisnki treatment
    Risks: who knows?
    Benefits: who knows?

    Let’s see, one treatment has evidence showing both sides of the risk/benefit equation, the other has …. absolutely no information about it whatsoever. Plus unethical charges of payment to patients for treatment provided as part of a clinical trial; which the former doesn’t do. Plus overcharging on meds you can get cheaper from other pharmacies; the former doesn’t do that either.

    Plus, Burzyinski offers misleading marketing information, along with providing *traditional chemo medications*. You’re defending the wrong guy here.

    A basic risk/benefit would suggest that cancer patients will receive more benefits than risks by attempting traditional chemo (depending of course on their individual situation). A basic risk/benefit would also suggest that trying Burzyinski’s treatment has no prior evidence for which to judge it on.

    Since EVERY form of modern cancer therapy is riddled with nasty side effects, your strawman argument about how its your duty to save peole from harmful treatment is misguided at best, hypocritical and arogant at worst.

    Unless of course you’re inventing a strawman of a strawman.

    Perhaps you only approve of terminal cancer patients receiving palliatve care only?

    I approve of medical treatments that are proven to be safe and effective. Wherever that may lead – and if Burzyinski would actually publish his fricking data, maybe I would be able to make up my mind whether what he does is both safe and effective. Until then I am assuming the null hypothesis: that it doesn’t work, because it has not been proven to work.

    Btw, there is nothing unethical or immoral about paying to participte in a clinical trial. Numerous clinical trails require participants fund a portion or all of their treatment.

    Have you got any evidence of that? And why is it moral to pay to participate? (Just because it has been or is being done doesn’t confer morality on it)

    If you have a problem with this, then kindly direct your outrage to the FDA which allows all manner of Big Pharma to charge for participation in clinical trials.

    Seeing as how I’m not in America, I don’t think I’d be able to do that. Down here in Australia we have universal health care, so we rarely have the same medical payment issues as you lot do; with the added benefit that participation in clinical trials are free.

    PS. See what I mean? I go to bed and wake up to find a bunch more comments. Where’s your proof of conspiracy huh? where’s your evidence of sock puppetry? Ah that’s right, when it doesn’t work, move on to the next claim and pretend you never made it…

    Each phase of an FDA clinical trial costs at minimum several million dollars. No problem if you are GSK but big problem if you are not. If every clinical trial was 100% funded by the FDA, only a handful of clinical trails would be performed every decade. This would grind research and development to a screeching halt.

    Ah yes the old “but he’s just one guy, he has no money” gambit.

    There’s plenty of ways to get the money, from public to private financing. Funny how he only seems to be interested in making money for himself.

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2012/03/the-burzynski-millions.html

    Many people ( not just cancer patients) have to pay thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to partcipate in clinical trials. I know a couple who paid over $70,000 to participate in an IVF trial (and still acme home with no baby). No doctor fees were covered, nor the medication. Perhaps someone like you should have told them to save their money on this unproven treatment and adopt instead?

    Did it ever occur to you that your friends were ripped off?

    Anecdotal: I’ve participated in research myself, and was not charged to be involved. It didn’t involve treatment programs, so it was voluntary, not reimbursed. So, one anecdote versus yours… equals absolutely nothing.

    No Callie, it is not immoral to charge for mark up of medications. That is why you pay $15.99 for 200 Advil that costs 50 cents to produce.

    You pay for the patents and years of R&D behind the drug.

    Yes – AFTER they have been proven to work. Before then, it’s up to the investigators/companies to pay for it.

    If you do not like it, then move to Cuba where no drugs are allowed to be marked up….but first you have to find the drug because the drugstore shelves are empty.

    Why are people from the UK or Australia going to Burzyinski to pay thousands of dollars for an unproven treatment, when they could stay at home and have treatment for free or at least heavily subsidised? Oh that’s right: because any hope is better than no hope, even if it’s false.

    Anedotal evidence doesnt count…until it does…

    Nope, it never does when it comes to clinical trials.

    Yeah science mom, ancedotes dont count…unless you are Orac smearing Dr Burzynski and then ancedotes up the wazoo! Take a look at the title of this blog… Which science journal is Orac getting the Mackey stats from? None…just more youtoob video. Goes both ways just sayin’.

    There’s a huge difference between using an anecdote in an informal setting and using one in a clinical trial or instead of peer-reviewed evidence. Orac doesn’t have to provide peer-reviewed evidence for Burzyinski’s treatment: Burzyinski does.

    And pointing out that all Burzyinski has is anecdotes is not exactly use of anecdotes in itself.

    By the way – even if all this were true and fine and dandy: that still doesn’t rebut the fact that the guy has not published any peer-reviewed papers on the treatment. Chemo could be wrong, that doesn’t make him in the right. Payment for trials might be fine, that doesn’t make his papers appear out of thin air. Current cancer treatment might not be perfect; that doesn’t make his any more so. Orac could be an evil being… that still doesn’t prove that Burzyinski is a saint.

    … And after all of this:

    Oh look, yet more LACK OF EVIDENCE provided to support fans of Burzyinski. And yet more logical fallacies and evasion of the truth in place of it.

    @JGC

    Clearly Flip’s concerned about saving people from Burzynski’s toxic chemotherapy. Wonder why that is?

    Maybe the fact that despite two decades of conducting supposed Phase II clinical trials Burzynski has published absolutely no evidence indicating it’s effective at treating advanced cancers?

    Absolutely right. I might not stop criticising him after he publishes, but it would at least allow me to have the opportunity to change my mind.

  22. #22 flip
    B.I.N.G.O.
    December 11, 2012

    I think I’m going to start a Burzyinski bingo card.
    1. Tu quoque
    2. Cut, burn, poison
    3. Nothing wrong with payments/ he has no money
    4. Conspiracy
    5. Any hope better than no hope
    6. Not understanding the difference between a trial and a treatment
    7. Continued distraction away from the lack of published evidence
    8. Youtube link
    9. Cancer testimonial website and/or newspaper article
    10. Any deaths/growths in the tumour is because of past chemo treatments

    Any more to add to the list?

  23. #23 Alain
    December 11, 2012

    @ Flip,

    I don’t have anything to add to your list but then, this made me pause:

    Anecdotal: I’ve participated in research myself, and was not charged to be involved. It didn’t involve treatment programs, so it was voluntary, not reimbursed. So, one anecdote versus yours… equals absolutely nothing.

    One anecdote further, I am treated in my clinical trial (it’s an open label) and it cost me nothing.

    Alain

    p.s. off to bed.

  24. #24 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    Perhaps you only approve of terminal cancer patients receiving palliatve care only?

    I have known a surprisingly large number of terminal cancer patients, on account of poor choices of family and friends. I have spent a lot of time in oncology wards and hospices, telling silly jokes and stringing up christmas decorations and holding hands during bone-marrow samples and helping out with morphine injections. I am the man to ask “Does this wig suit me” or “Does this Hickman line make my bum look big” or if you want a steady hand with the final OD.

    I approve terminal cancer patients receiving whatever care they choose.
    I approve of fraudsters who feckin’ lie to terminal cancer patients dying in fires.
    The same for people who construct elaborate pyramid schemes to exploit the families of terminal cancer patients, by giving them the task of extracting money for the fraudsters from their communities and support networks.

  25. #25 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    I have known a surprisingly large number of terminal cancer patients
    Forgot to add that I also know a large number of non-terminal cancer ex-patients.

  26. #26 Krebiozen
    December 11, 2012

    Mel,

    I wonder if Flip is so concerned over saving people from toxic chemo therapy? Or how about radiation that burns off peoples hair and makes them sterile & deaf?

    Do you really think those people would be perfectly well if those nasty oncologists would just leave them alone? Have you the slightest idea what untreated cancer can be like?

  27. #27 Krebiozen
    December 11, 2012

    flip,

    You might add, ‘ignores previous conventional treatment and gives credit for any improvement to Burzynski’ to your bingo card, and perhaps, ‘thinks that untreated cancer is more pleasant than chemotherapy and radiotherapy’.

  28. #28 flip
    Updated B.I.N.G.O.
    December 11, 2012

    @Krebiozen

    Good point, updated below:

    1. Tu quoque
    2. Cut, burn, poison/ cancer is not as terrible as we think, therefore no chemo
    3. Nothing wrong with payments/ he has no money
    4. Conspiracy
    5. Any hope better than no hope
    6. Not understanding the difference between a trial and a treatment
    7. Continued distraction away from the lack of published evidence
    8. Youtube link
    9. Cancer testimonial website and/or newspaper article
    10. Any deaths/growths in the tumour is because of past chemo treatments
    11. Alternatively, take any credit for past chemo treatments

  29. #29 MarkL
    London
    December 11, 2012

    So Mel is another hysterical ninny with nothing to say but “stop being so mean to the Bwave Doctor”. No evidence, no real argument as to why he shouldn’t be condemned, in fact no real attempt to defend him………….just “thtop being tho beathtly”.

    This seems to be increasingly the case with Burzynski supporters, they are running out of pseudoscience arguments and turning to nebulous arguments about “personal choice” and “fairness” mixed with new-age mysticism and good old fashioned bullsh*t.

    Maybe the brave maverick wont ever get what he truly deserves (a lengthy spell in an enclosed space where he is afraid to go and shower), but here’s hoping his support drains away to nothing as both the credulous and the sick, desperate and confused see the light and recognise the odious truth of his scam .

  30. #30 al kimeea
    www.quackademiology.com
    December 11, 2012

    @Flip & Alain

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere and to add more anecdotes regarding clinical trials, I’ve been in two.

    I would have been charged for one of them as it was using already approved meds in a slightly different fashion based on anecdotal evidence of efficacy. Praise be to socialized medicine, eh Alain.

    The second tab was covered by BigPharma and I got $25 a visit (for lunch/parking but mostly parking) because, like $tan Bur$iti$ and his Urine Cure, the drug was unproven.

    Burchintzy is a $coundrel worthy of the gibbet.

  31. #31 Denice Walter
    December 11, 2012

    Here’s another side effect of melanoma excision:
    you get to live- like my handsome, athletic cousin Will- who had one removed more than 5 years ago.
    And work, travel, spend money, worry about his kids etc.

  32. #32 LW
    December 11, 2012

    “Or how about radiation that burns off peoples hair and makes them sterile & deaf?”

    Would I rather be bald, deaf, and sterile, or dead? Man, that’s a hard one, that is.

  33. #33 Mel
    December 11, 2012

    Burzynski is like Aristotle in a room full of flat earthers trying to convince them the earth is round.

    You all want a ride in a spaceship before you’ll consider altering your beliefs.

    Antineoplaston are so worthless, thats why Burzynskis patents were infringed upon 11 times…

    Let the hysteriacal rage and gnashing of teeth resume…

  34. #34 Lawrence
    December 11, 2012

    @Mel – okay, how about some actual evidence, citations or other proof of the efficacy of Dr. B’s treatments?

    Why hasn’t he published clinical results for his various “trials?”

    At least Aristotle provided evidence – you have provided exactly NONE.

  35. #35 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    December 11, 2012

    Actually, Mel this is a more accurate version of your sentence:

    “Burzynski is like P.T. Barnum in a room full of round earthers trying to convince them the earth is flat.”

    So where is that one paper where Burzynski clearly shows his antineoplaston therapy works as well as something Gleevec with the evidence being the results of one of his many clinical trials? Just give us the title, journal and date of the PubMed indexed paper with a direct quote.

  36. #36 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    December 11, 2012

    Burzynski is like Aristotle in a room full of flat earthers trying to convince them the earth is round.

    How bloody rich playing the Galileo Gambit. Hey Mel, Burzynski will never convince his critics as long as he thinks bad documentaries and YooToob videos is doing science. He needs to act like a big boy and put his results out in the community to see if it can withstand scrutiny.

    You all want a ride in a spaceship before you’ll consider altering your beliefs.

    Aww, poor wittle Mel doesn’t think that proof should be required and we should all mindlessly accept anecdotes because he did.

    Antineoplaston are so worthless, thats why Burzynskis patents were infringed upon 11 times…

    Yeah yeah it was in the movie, it must be twoo.

  37. #37 Mel
    December 11, 2012

    Science mom….Stop acting like a complete moron…

    ARISTOTLE discovered the earth was round
    GALILEO discovered the earth rotated around the sun

    If you cant even realize the differnce between those two no wonder antineoplastons zoom right over your primative skulls…whoosh!

  38. #38 Narad
    December 11, 2012

    Antineoplaston are so worthless, thats why Burzynskis patents were infringed upon 11 times…

    Wow, apparently even this documercial was presented above your comprehension level. The assertion isn’t “infringement,” you dunderhead.

  39. #39 Krebiozen
    December 11, 2012

    This is very funny, Mel apparently doesn’t know what the Galileo Gambit is, and thus has not the faintest clue what a fool she is making of herself here.

    BY the way, who is making money form all those patents that were stolen from Burzynski? It looks to me as if the US government registered some patents on phenylacetates back in the day but abandoned them because they found they weren’t much use.

  40. #40 Narad
    December 11, 2012

    ARISTOTLE discovered the earth was round

    Not really, no.

  41. #41 Lawrence
    December 11, 2012

    @Mel – so no evidence, I’m assuming, right?

    And it is called the “Galileo Gambit” when someone tries to use a historical scientific figure (usually Galileo) to justify woo. Just because you decided to use Aristotle doesn’t make it any less of a typical wooish attempt on your part to justify something with no actual evidence.

    So, where are the studies, replicated research or proof? And why do you keep avoiding the question?

  42. #42 Narad
    December 11, 2012

    By the way, Mel, are you going to pony up the “FDA CLINICAL trial that charged patients $5000-18,000 per treatment cycle depending on which treatment track was chos” that “ran from 1994-2011”? Surely, this must be child’s play, given that you don’t have a “primative” skull.

  43. #43 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    December 11, 2012

    ARISTOTLE discovered the earth was round

    Neat trick considering it was a concept prior to Aristotle’s time and not even proven. Dumbass.

    GALILEO discovered the earth rotated around the sun

    Um you might wan’t to verify some things before you come out of the gate frothing like a nutbar. The Galileo Gambit is a debate fallacy which you attempted to use.

    If you cant even realize the differnce between those two no wonder antineoplastons zoom right over your primative skulls…whoosh!

    Oh you mean the way rhetorical technique completely eludes you jackhole? Happy to take the piss out of you. We’ll see if that one escapes you as well.

  44. #44 MarkL
    London
    December 11, 2012

    Wow, Mel has raised her game today.

    WHOOSH??

    Hahahaha, if the improvements keep coming this quickly, IT (gender neutral enough for you?) will be able to take on 3rd graders in debate soon without embarrassing itself.

  45. #45 JGC
    December 11, 2012

    Burzynski is like Aristotle in a room full of flat earthers trying to convince them the earth is round. You all want a ride in a spaceship before you’ll consider altering your beliefs.

    Let’s run with that analogy, for a bit, and ask ourselves “Since it wasn’t possible for Aristotle or others to give anyone a ride in a spaceship, how did people come to realize that the earth wasn’t flat?”

    Through the accumulation and dissemination of a significant body of evidence demonstrating this to be true.

    No one here is asking Burzynskifor the equivalent of “a ride in a spaceship” as proof of antineoplaston safety and efficacy for treatment of advanced cancers but instead smething completely mundane: the same evidence which previously has convinced us of the efficacy and safety of of other drugs for other indications: results from appropriately scaled, designed and controlled clinical trials demonstrating efficacy.

    He’s been doing them for decades–why do you think he’s unwillingly to publish the results?

    Antineoplaston are so worthless, thats why Burzynskis patents were infringed upon 11 times…

    The fact that his patents may have been infringed upon doesn’t argue antineoplastons are safe or efficacious, only that someone else believes there’s a profit to be made offering unproven treatments to desparate people at obscenely inflated mark-ups,

  46. #46 Bronze Dog
    December 11, 2012

    IIRC, Carl Sagan pointed out, “They also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

    It’s annoying that there people who assume being criticized, ridiculed, or persecuted is evidence of their correctness. It never seems to occur to them that wrong ideas are also criticized, ridiculed, and persecuted. The history of science is full of false ideas that rightly died out because of legitimate criticism.

    But they’re not interested in the possibility that they’re wrong. Everyone tends to think they and their allies are the heroes of their own story, and a lot of people love the heroic “I told you so” when they turn out to be right in the end, and the critics get mud on their face. They’re so emotionally invested in that narrative, it never occurs to them that they might still be stuck in the chapter where the arrogant apprentice ignores the warnings, makes a huge mistake, and humbly realizes he still has much to learn from listening to others.

    That’s one reason why I want my opponents to provide me with things like clinical studies. If I’m wrong, I want a clear demonstration so that I can learn. If they just give me textbook con artist rhetoric, they’re only reinforcing my skepticism and arguably taking responsibility for my wrongness: They’re omitting the information I told them I need to change my mind towards the correct conclusion.

  47. #47 Bronze Dog
    December 11, 2012

    As for proving the Earth to be round, you do that sort of thing with careful measurements under controlled conditions. Those measurements have to conform with your hypothesis’s predictions more often than they deviate or conform to a competing hypothesis’s predictions. I could search for the experiments done to prove the Earth’s roundness and do them myself if I was skeptical. With some thought, I might even be able to devise my own experiment to test it. I don’t have to just take someone’s word for it, and I don’t necessarily need blatant evidence.

    The problem I have with Burzynski is that they typically ignore the known, parsimonious, alternative hypotheses offered by his critics, like placebo, confirmation bias, selection bias, other treatments that were used or likely used, and so on. They just want us to accept their interpretation and close our minds to more likely and more familiar possibilities because it’s simple and easy.

  48. #48 flip
    Third B.I.N.G.O. attempt
    December 11, 2012

    1. Tu quoque
    2. Cut, burn, poison/ cancer is not as terrible as we think, therefore no chemo
    3. Nothing wrong with payments/ he has no money
    4. Conspiracy
    5. Any hope better than no hope
    6. Not understanding the difference between a trial and a treatment
    7. Continued distraction away from the lack of published evidence
    8. Youtube link
    9. Cancer testimonial website and/or newspaper article
    10. Any deaths/growths in the tumour is because of past chemo treatments
    11. Alternatively, take any credit for past chemo treatments
    12. Brave maverick – mention Galileo, Aristotle, or any other ancient authority who happened to have *evidence* for their claims, despite Burzyinski – nor his fans – showing any of their own

  49. #49 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    December 11, 2012

    Every time I read one of Mel’s hysterical replies I keep thinking of that YouTube viral video that circulated a few years ago featuring a Britney Spears fan screaming “Leave Britney Alone!” Except this new version is Mel screaming “Leave Burzynski Alone!”

    You all have may more patience than I do.

  50. #50 flip
    December 11, 2012

    @Mel

    Burzynski is like Aristotle in a room full of flat earthers trying to convince them the earth is round.

    You all want a ride in a spaceship before you’ll consider altering your beliefs.

    Antineoplaston are so worthless, thats why Burzynskis patents were infringed upon 11 times…

    Let the hysteriacal rage and gnashing of teeth resume…

    So that’s a no then for having evidence, and a yes for having yet more logical fallacies?

    GALILEO discovered the earth rotated around the sun

    To continue from Narad: Er no. It was a hypothesis at the time, among many, but was largely ignored by science due to lack of observational evidence plus an unwillingness to let go of religious ideas (that the Earth was the centre of everything) and a continued emphasis on including false assumptions about our universe. Galileo worked on this hypothesis using previous astronomical records plus his own.

    It helps to actually read about his work before mouthing off on this common trope. Or you know, reading the second paragraph on Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliocentrism

    That Galileo is held up as the guy who went against the grain is pretty much proof you have no idea what you’re on about. He was only one of a long line of people who ‘stood on the shoulders’ of those who came before; which is exactly what good science does. Collect a bit of data; propose hypothesis; debate; solve a tiny bit of the problem; repeat ad nauseum.

    By the way: Galileo was right only because he bothered collect data and to publish his research, so that other people could see for themselves. And the only reason we remember him more than others is because he went out of his way to publicise himself *and* he was right.

    Unfortunately Burzyinski does one but not the other.

  51. #51 flip
    December 11, 2012

    EDIT:
    Collect a bit of data; propose hypothesis; debate; test hypothesis; solve a tiny bit of the problem; revise hypothesis; repeat ad nauseum.

  52. #52 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    GALILEO discovered the earth rotated around the sun

    Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler… their names are but written in the sand…

  53. #53 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    December 11, 2012

    Did you guys see Orac’s note about tomorrow’s post? He’s promising a special surprise for all the Burzynski trolls. Guess he’s been following the comments over the past few days.

    I can’t wait for tomorrow! I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve!

  54. #54 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    ARISTOTLE discovered the earth was round

    Parmenides, Empedocles, Necho II, Pythagoras, Plato… these names are unknown to Mel. Perhaps because they are not written in CAPITALS.

  55. #55 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    Every time I read one of Mel’s hysterical replies
    Apparently it is spelled “hysteriacal”.

  56. #56 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    December 11, 2012

    I’m in no position to be pedantic about spelling today. I re-read my posts and am embarassed that most of them are riddled with typos. I’m in safe mode and can only see a small section of the screen, plus my Bluetooth mouse doesn’t work in safe mode so I have to use the finger pad to scroll up and down. It takes a lot of scrolling to proofread.

  57. #57 OracIsaDope
    December 11, 2012

    Following this blog for awhile now and the slop never changes.

    @Mel: stop casting your pearls of wisdom before these swine. They are like the tumors Dr Burzynski treats: rabid, malignant, stubborn yet eventually defeated.

    @everyone else: Is Dr Dvorit Samid also a quack?

    Dr. Dvorit Samid joined Synta as Vice President, Medical Affairs, in March 2012. Dr. Samid has three decades of oncology research and drug development experience including clinical development, launch and life-cycle management of drugs in lung cancer (Erbitux), breast cancer (Abraxane, Xeloda), and colorectal cancer (Xeloda). Her career spans academia (Associate Professor – University of Virginia Medical School), government (Section Chief — Differentiation Control, National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health Division of Cancer Treatment) and pharmaceutical industry (Head of Medical Affairs at Roche, ImClone and others). Dr. Samid holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., completed graduate studies in Biology at Technion Institute in Haifa, Israel and holds a B.Sc. in Microbiology from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Samid has authored over 80 publications in oncology and holds 19 patents.

    ————————————-

    11 of those 19 patents belong to none other than Dr Stanislaw Burzynski.

    For example: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5883124.PN.&OS=PN/5883124&RS=PN/5883124

    A simple patent search at patft.uspto.gov will list them all

  58. #58 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    no wonder antineoplastons zoom right over your primative skulls

    Let’s have less of the anti-Neandertal trash-talk here. Do I go around sneering at you Cro-Mags for your puny little brow-ridges? NO I DON’T.

  59. #59 Krebiozen
    December 11, 2012

    no wonder antineoplastons zoom right over your primative skulls

    In a golden stream of urine…

  60. #60 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    December 11, 2012

    You think Penn & TEller have ever heard of Burznski?

    Wouldn’t that be a great subject for their Bullsh!t show?

    They’d already done other quackery, like faith healing. And they love anything to do with consumer fraud.

  61. #61 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 11, 2012

    … Should I even point out that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and rotates around its axis?

    … nah, you’re right. That’s just a mistake in terminology; it pales next to thinking “A YouTube video claims it; it must be true!!”

  62. #62 herr doktor bimler
    December 11, 2012

    Collect a bit of data; propose hypothesis; debate; test hypothesis; solve a tiny bit of the problem; revise hypothesis; repeat ad nauseum.

    What Sam Beckett wrote. “Fail again. Fail better.”

  63. #63 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    December 11, 2012

    no wonder antineoplastons zoom</strike" whiz right over your primative skulls

    FTFY

  64. #64 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    December 11, 2012

    This time for sure:

    no wonder antineoplastons zoom whiz right over your primative skulls

  65. #65 flip
    December 11, 2012

    @HDB

    What Sam Beckett wrote. “Fail again. Fail better.”

    Yep, that’s the more concise way of putting it alright 😉

  66. #66 Calli Arcale
    December 12, 2012

    Mel,

    Late reply, but I’ve been very busy at my day job.

    No Callie, it is not immoral to charge for mark up of medications. That is why you pay $15.99 for 200 Advil that costs 50 cents to produce.

    There’s a different between a profit margin and what Burzynski does. If I told you that you should fill your prescription at my pharmacy, didn’t tell you exactly what you were receiving, and sold you Advil for $100 a bottle when you could easily have gotten it at the drugstore for a fraction of that, wouldn’t you be pissed off? That is analogous to what Burzynski does. In addition to his antineoplastons, he takes approved pharmaceutical, marks them up many times more than what the manufacturers recommend, many more times than other pharmacies in the same town would sell it at, and then strongly encourages his patients to use *his* pharmacy, without really telling them what it is they’re getting (likely so it’s harder for them to realize they’re being soaked).

  67. #67 Helen Marshall
    Katy
    December 19, 2012

    I look forward to seeing the Burzynski Clinic finally go out of business. Too many victims of these criminals.

  68. #68 Newsflash
    December 20, 2012

    Cancer = $greed$…..there will be no cure

  69. #69 flip
    December 20, 2012

    @Newsflash

    Did you have anything substantial to add, or are you just unoriginal?

  70. #70 novalox
    December 21, 2012

    @newsflash

    You do know that there is more than one type of cancer, right? Or did it get lost in your pathetic attempt at the pharma shill gambit.

  71. #71 Narad
    December 21, 2012

    Cancer = $greed$…..there will be no cure

    I seem to be missing the part where this points somewhere other than directly at Burzynski.

  72. #72 LW
    December 21, 2012

    @Newsflash: in your opinion, who exactly is in on the conspiracy to ensure that “there will be no cure”? Sample answers: “all doctors everywhere”, “all doctors in U.S.”, “all oncologists everywhere”, “the FDA and CDC”, etc.

  73. #73 JGC
    Noting that your conspiracy theory is showing
    December 21, 2012

    Cancer, however, does not equal greed. Can developing, producing and marketing treatments for injuries and illness be profitable? Fortunately, yes–otherwise it would be impossible to attract investment to fund what is inherently an extremely high-risk enterprise (can you name another industry where the cost of product development is measured in tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars while you can expect 90% of all prospective products will fail in development and never reach the market?)

    The idea that every scientist in the world (commercial or academic), every nurse, every physician in the world, every private or government regulatory agency and watchdog group, the National Health Institute, the World Health Organization–in effect every single individual involved in helth care on the planet–are part of some vast conspiracy to conceal a cure for cancer or impede the discovery of cheaper, safer, more effective treatments for cancer for presumptive monetary gain is just, well…

    ‘Insane’ is the only word that comes to mind.

  74. #74 anndrew
    January 5, 2013

    well, rehyal radiation and chemotherapy kills mucuh more peoplee but no one blame doctors for that. burzynski gives somee hope to people while regular mediciine gives no hope at all. and why you havent tell your readers abour cuccess cases? actually, what person is doing with her body and what treatment is chosing is only her busines, and none of yours. burzynski treatmentn has better survival rates than any other, well maybe excluding gerson therapy. problem with blogers like you is that you want to take all the hope from people. and you know s**** about human body. so, take your toys and go home.

  75. #75 Claire
    January 10, 2013

    Unfortunately, Amelia Saunders died on 6th January. The posts written by her family about her journey, which included visting the Burzynski clinic, are quite heart rending. It is here for all to read.
    http://www.facebook.com/ameliasmiracle

  76. #76 Todd W.
    harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 10, 2013

    @Claire

    Orac wrote about that news here. Truly sad what the family went through and how Burzynski took advantage of them.

  77. #77 Claire
    January 11, 2013

    @Todd W.
    I am new to this blog and only discovered the news you mention once I’d read all the comments in this thread and posted here!

  78. #78 Barb
    January 11, 2013

    I think what is sad is that people everyday are charged thousands and thousands of dollars for approved treatment, but we hear nothing of that. It’s sad that ANY family has to pay thousands of dollars, no matter WHERE they get the treatment. A friend of mine, an 11 year old girl, who fought cancer for three years, who used chemotherapy from the 1970’s, died this year. Her parents paid the tune of 93,000 per round of treatment for this, approved by the government treatment. There is no difference or need to argue about money being thrown at one place or another. We need to be focusing on what works, and not every ONE things works for EVERY person…there has to be options out there, and people should be able to pick their course. The government controls way too much, and unfortunately, they are in the business of making money. We’ve made leaps in bounds in so many areas of science, how is it that we are still so VERY VERY medieval with cancer treatment (and food approved to be on our shelves!!!!)

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