Thursday 6 November 2014

The Burzynski Con

There is a lot wrong with current oncology practice and the research that underpins it. The pace of change is slow. Promised breakthroughs fail to deliver what they initially promised. The clinical trials process is slow and getting slower. Patient needs remain unmet and patients are dying while regulations multiply and conspire against change. But with that in mind, that doesn't mean that science is wrong, that clinical trials are wrong or that there are 'cures' out there which the drug companies are suppressing. As I have written before, there is no such thing as a miracle cure.

Unfortunately there are some people who take what are valid criticisms of the clinical trials process or the lack of progress in oncology and then imagine that there are conspiracies at work to deliberately stop progress happening. And of course there are some people out there who will use that to their advantage. Probably the most notorious example of this is a man called Stanislaw Burzynski.

Burzynki came up with the idea that there were chemicals in the body, which he called antineoplastons, which could be effective against cancer. His idea was that people with cancer were deficient in these antineoplastons, and that by taking them externally they could mount an effective defence against cancer. It's a simple idea, but rather than go through the normal process of testing, Burzynski set up a clinic and began treating patients very early on. He has been doing this for decades, and still there is no proof that his treatment works. In the years that he has been operating his Burzynski Clinic in Texas, he has treated many thousands of patients, at great financial cost to them. It's not a cheap treatment. And, despite what he says, it's not non-toxic either, patients have died from the side effects of his treatment. And still there is no evidence that this stuff works.

Of course this lack of evidence has brough Burzynski into conflict with the authorities. But he's a skillful operator and has taken on the cloak of the maverick loner battling the evil authorities that want to deprive cancer patients of a treatment that works. He and his supporters like to paint his as a modern Gallileo facing the oncological inquisition. This is an effective ploy as some people are drawn to defend him because of this narrative when the facts stand for themselves. Bruzynski's clinic is fleecing dying patients of tens of thousands of dollars and treating them with dangerous drugs that have shown no evidence of working. His supporters point to the fact that he is running clinical trials, but these are sham trials that do not report results and which are there as a means of enrolling patients into his expensive treatments.

It's a massive con. In the decades that Burzynski has been operating if there was any evidence of efficacy, no matter how mild, then Burzynski himself would have published it as a way of getting even more money into his pocket. For a slice of the sordid truth about Burzynski, then read some of the patient's stories for yourself:

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