Clinical trials

Respectful Insolence

Category archives for Clinical trials

A sweaty crowdfunded misfire of science

“Team aerobic” by Berner Kantonalturnfest 2010 (Utzenstorf, Bätterkinden, Kirchberg, Koppigen). Original uploader was Equilibrium suisse at de.wikipedia – Transferred from de.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Boteas using CommonsHelper. (Original text: http://www.ktf2010.ch). Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons. Few people know better than I that times are tough in the world of biomedical research. It’s been…

There’s a point I feel that I have have to make briefly as I begin this post. Basically, this might look familiar, but given that I was at TAM Wednesday through Sunday, I didn’t have time to produce two separate posts, and this is important enough to be distributed as widely as possible. In any…

Three months ago, I wrote about how the Cleveland Clinic had recently opened a clinic that dispensed herbal medicine according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice. As regular readers might expect, I was not particularly impressed or approving of this particular bit of infiltration of quackademic medicine into a major, generally well-respected academic medical center,…

Our regularly scheduled post will go live later this morning. In the meantime, this is a public service announcement…with GUITAR! (Oh, wait.) As you recall, last week, the FDA inexplicably decided to lift the partial clinical hold on Stanislaw Burzynski’s bogus clinical trials of antineoplastons, which he’s used since the 1990s as a pretext to…

Can we just say that vaccines are safe, already? Can we just say that, of all the medical interventions ever conceived by the minds of humans, vaccines have almost certainly saved more lives and prevented more illness? Can we finally say that vaccines do not cause autism? Of course not, unfortunately. I ask the same…

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost three years since I first started taking an interest in the Houston cancer doctor and Polish expat Stanislaw Burzynski. Three long years, but that’s less than one-twelfth the time that Burzynski has been actually been administering an unproven cancer treatment known as antineoplastons (ANPs), a…

If this looks a bit familiar to some of you, let’s just say that it’s grant crunch time again. This should be over after today. I hope. In the meantime, one of the difficult things about science-based medicine is determining what is and isn’t quackery. While it is quite obvious that modalities such as homeopathy,…

As if yesterday’s post weren’t depressing enough, last weekend I attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago, which is part of the reason I didn’t produce much in the way of posts about a week ago. Last Sunday, while aimlessly wandering from session to session and checking…

Here we go again. Two months ago, I noted that Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, the Polish expatriate physician who started out as a legitimate medical researcher and then in the late 1970s took a turn away from science-based medicine and towards being a “brave maverick doctor” through his discovery in blood and urine of substances he…

I happen to be out of town right now, attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. It’s been a more—shall we say?—eventful trip than anticipated, which is why at my not-so-super-secret other blog we have a guest post today and here I will (probably) be shorter than usual. I’m…

Being a cancer surgeon, I realize that my tendency is to view my blogging material through the prism of cancer, particularly breast cancer, my specialty. it’s easy to forget that there are diseases every bit as horrible, some arguably even more so than the worst cancer. When I think of such diseases, it’s not surprising…

Placebo effects in surgery

Although I’m a translational researcher, I’m also a surgeon. That was my first and primary training and only later did I decide to get my PhD during my residency, when the opportunity to do so with a decent stipend presented itself. From my perspective, clinical research in surgery is difficult, arguably more difficult than it…

Pretty much everyone who’s gotten through junior high recognizes the line from the William Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet says, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes…

Well, it snuck up on me again, the way it has a tendency to do every year. Maybe it’s because Memorial Day is so early this year. Maybe it’s because there’s just so much work to do this week given the multiple grant deadlines. Whatever the case, it just dawned on my last night that…

I hadn’t really planned on writing again about everyone’s favorite conspiracy theorist and promoter of quackery, Mike Adams, at least not so soon after the last time I did it, which was only last week after Adams appeared on Dr. Oz’s daytime television show to push his “laboratory.” Adams, as you might recall, goes by…

Over the years, the criticism of “evidence-based medicine” (EBM) that I have repeated here and that I and others have repeated at my not-so-super-secret other blog is that its levels of evidence relegate basic science considerations to the lowest level evidence and elevate randomized clinical trial evidence to the highest rung, in essence fetishizing it…

I was torn about what to blog about today. There were lots of things floating around that caught my eye and appear worthy of of a little taste of Insolence, either Respectful or not-so-Respectful, so much so that I couldn’t decide. None of them really stuck out. Then I saw this news story pop up…

I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned my connection with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF). I probably have, but just don’t remember it. Longtime readers might recall that I did my general surgery training at Case Western Reserve University at University Hospitals of Cleveland. Indeed, I did my PhD there as well in the Department…

Damn it. After hearing the horrible news that Laura Hymas had died on the same day that I found out that the pro-quackery “health freedom” Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) was supporting a federal “right to try” bill, I thought it would just be a one-off post about Burzynski, his allies, and the human toll…

As regular readers know, I was quite happy that Skeptical Inquirer (SI) agreed to publish articles by Bob Blaskiewicz and myself about the highly dubious cancer doctor in Houston known as Stanislaw Burzynski. Indeed, Bob and I have been busily doing our best to promote it, appearing on various podcasts, including Point of Inquiry and,…

Of all the cranks, quacks, antivaccinationists, and pseudoscientists that I’ve encountered (and applied a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence to) over the years, there are a few who belong in the top tier—or, if you prefer, the bottom tier. They stick out in my memory for a variety of reasons, either through their sheer crankitude on…

Note: I was busy doing something last night that left me no time to compose any fresh Insolence, which will become apparent by this weekend. In the meantime, however, I’m betting quite a few of you haven’t seen this before, and those who have might want to discuss it further in a different environment. Quackademic…

As I sat down to write this bit of Insolence, I had at least two ideas for what I thought would be informative, entertaining, and timely posts. I also didn’t want to have to write about Stanislaw Burzynski again after having just done so on Friday, having to note that the FDA caved, granting compassionate…

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” I know I’ve used that quote before several times over the 9+ years that I’ve been blogging. These days, I probably use it most frequently when it comes to the topic of Stanislaw Burzynski. Every time I think that I can give the…

If there’s one thing a budding skeptic quickly learns is that at the core of any good woo almost invariably lurks at least one conspiracy theory. At the risk of flirting a little too close to Godwin territory, this simple fact about pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and other non-evidence-based belief systems was first driven home to me…