Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quack of the Day: Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski

Cancer.  Just the word itself causes people to gasp as they wonder if it will impact them or their loved ones.  If you ask a typical person about their families, chances are they have lost at least one person close to them from cancer, or they may have fought cancer themselves.  In fact, it is estimated that over 40% of the public will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes, so there is good reason to be concerned.

Cancer can impact everyone.  It impacts both men and women, both young and old, and members of all races.  In some cases, if detected early, cancer can be treated and the cancer can be considered to be in remission.  In other cases, a late cancer diagnosis which has metastasized to numerous parts of the body can essentially be a death sentence.  Although treatments have improved and death rates have fallen, there is still no known cure.
Because of this, it is not uncommon for people to fear cancer.  It is not uncommon for cancer patients to try every possible treatment known to man even if some of those treatments are experimental or unproven.  It is also not uncommon for medical conspiracy theorists to proclaim some random doctor or self-proclaimed cancer expert has a miracle cure that can treat cancer patients or that this miracle cure is being suppressed by "Big Pharma", the FDA, AMA, CDC, WHO, or some other random government agency.

This is where Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski comes into play.  Burzynski has positioned himself as a victim.  He claims he can treat and in many cases even suggests he can cure cancer, but because his treatments would negatively impact the pharmaceutical companies or mainstream cancer treatment centers (and thus suggesting it would harm their bottom-line), he is being unfairly targeted and muzzled from speaking the "truth" about cancer.

Thus, Burzynski has decided the best way to get his message out to the masses is to star in a movie about himself to share his story, and of course like all the other alternative medicine mockumentaries prior, the movie serves no legitimate scientific benefit and is heavily biased.  Of course the glaring lack of peer-reviewed science or supporting evidence is irrelevant to a medical conspiracy theorist, and as such the alternative medical proponents such as Lowell Hubbs have latched on to this little film as evidence of some massive conspiracy.  They will even go so far as to cite it as a legitimate source of data, and they will refer to the film as if it was a true unbiased and scientifically supported documentary. 

It really shouldn't surprise anyone that Mr. Hubbs would be a fan of Burzynski, because Mr. Hubbs is a fan of pretty much anyone who labels themselves as a practitioner of alternative medical therapies, or anyone who has ever positioned themselves as the antithesis to mainstream modern medicine.  Thus, true to form, Mr. Hubbs has inundated my inbox with comment after comment bragging about Burzynski and his miracle cancer cures.

Burzynski himself isn't exactly new to the cancer scene, and he has been involved in his research for around 35 years.  Burzynski focuses upon what he calls "antineoplaston therapy" and he offers his treatments at his clinic located in Houston, Texas.  Initially, Burzynski was extracting these antineoplastons from urine he collected from the restrooms in public parks (which is why Mr. Hubbs has stated in the past that a doctor was able to cure cancer by extracting a substance from urine), but later Burzynski synthesized the antineoplastons in a lab as it was obviously much easier, and much less expensive.

It should be noted that antineoplaston therapy has never been approved by the FDA, and Burzynski has published no peer-reviewed science in support of his treatments.  Burzynski has been approved to perform FDA testing on his treatments, yet to date, no phase III randomized, controlled trials of antineoplastons as a treatment for cancer have been conducted.  Ever.  Read that again - in the 35 years that Burzynski has been performing clinical trials on antineoplastons, no phase III randomized, controlled trials of antineoplastons as a treatment for cancer have been conducted.  This means that Burzynski has never performed a study to compare his antineoplaston therapy against more conventional therapies, and it doesn't appear he has any immediate plans to do so.

Burzynski has actually performed some clinical trials, namely phase I and phase II trials, yet the results of those trials remain unpublished.  Out of 61 clinical trials listed under Burzynski's name, 50 of them are in an unknown status, seven have been withdrawn, two were terminated, one is not yet recruiting, and in one single case, Burzynski has actually finished his phase II clinical trial.  So out of a total of 61 trials reported in the past 35 years only one has been finished, yet where is the peer-reviewed science showing the magical results?  The reality is, 60 of the 61 trials listed are phase II clinical trials, and the only phase III trial listed is the one that states it is not yet recruiting.  The information was submitted in December 2010 with a start date listed as December 2011 and a completion date of December 2015, yet there haven't been any updates and it appears it still pending as "not yet open for participant recruitment".

Based upon this information, we only have one single study to focus upon, and that was the phase II trial that dealt with how well antineoplaston therapy works in treating patients with progressive or recurrent stage IV melanoma.  The trial was started in 1996 and shows as completed in 2005, so what is the explanation on why the results haven't been published?

If the results don't prove that antineoplaston therapy is effective, then why is he continuing to promote it?  If the results do suggest that antineoplaston therapy is effective in treating cancer, why hasn't the data been published for all to see?  What purpose does it serve to suppress data if he has faith in the outcome of his clinical trial?  The fact is antineoplaston therapy is still considered experimental, so why is Burzynski promoting it as a legitimate treatment even before publishing results of his own studies?

As you can see there are a lot of questions, but Burzynski doesn't appear to be offering many answers.  It seems that although he can't legally treat patients with antineoplaston therapy, he can enroll them into one of his many clinical trials, so this little loophole has allowed Burzynski to operate his clinic for 35 years even though he has never published any results from those trials in any reputable peer-reviewed journals.  One might assume that such a "visionary" would want to share his treatments and clinical results with the world in order to have an honest impact upon the future of cancer treatments... but alas that doesn't appear to be the case with Burzynski.

Of course Burzynski is no stranger to controversy or the courtroom either.  He has been involved in various court cases since at least 1983, ranging from violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to  fraud to... well more fraud.  It seems most recently, Burzynski has found himself being investigated once again by the Texas Medical Board, although that case is currently pending and a hearing is scheduled for April 2012.

It also appears that Burzynski doesn't take kindly to people challenging his viewpoints.  In cases where someone calls out his nonsense, he has staff members send them threatening email messages as he recently did to Rhys Morgan in response to a blog posting Mr. Morgan published.  He also did the same to Le Canard Noir (Andy Lewis) for a post he wrote entitled The False Hope of the Burzynski Clinic and he did the same to Peter Bowditch

I'm sure there are others, but perhaps if Burzynski would spend as much time focused upon producing scientific data as a result of his neverending clinical trials rather than chasing after random bloggers who happen to think he is a fraud or a quack, he might actually get somewhere.  Then again, it is safe to say if the results of his ongoing trials were actually impressive, we would have read about them decades ago.

It would seem when you really examine the data, Burzynski simply doesn't have the science or research to support his viewpoints, and I find it disturbing that he promotes the myth that he can so easily cure cancer without any scientific basis to make such a claim.  He gives cancer victims and family members false hope, and he hasn't shown his treatments are effective at anything other than shrinking the size of a person's bank account.

I of course could go into much more detail about Burzynski, his impressive claims, his lack of scientific data, and his little movie, but why repeat what has already been done?
  1. Stanislaw Burzynski: Bad medicine, a bad movie, and bad P.R.
  2. Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s “personalized gene-targeted cancer therapy”: Can he do what he claims for cancer?
  3. Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, antineoplastons, and the selling of an orphan drug as a cancer cure
  4. Quackwatch: Stanislaw Burzynski and "Antineoplastons"
  5. Dr. Saul Green's Letter to the Washington Post
  6. The Compassion Gambit
Of course if you are really, really interested - here is a list of blogs which speak about Burzynski, his treatments, his lack of published science, and much, much more.

All of this aside, claims that a miracle cure exists for cancer won't even hold up against common sense.  Cancer is not just one lone medical condition that responds to a one-size-catch-all treatment.  Cancer encompasses many different forms of the disease which all present themselves differently and which respond to treatments differently.  To suggest there is any one treatment that can so easily cure so many various forms of cancer immediately raises suspicion.

If such a cure was readily available, and if such a cure actually worked the medical insurance industry would be spending tens of millions of dollars to ensure the studies were fully funded and that the treatment was in widespread use. Conventional cancer treatments can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more, yet Burzynski's antineoplastons can be synthesized and are available from medical suppliers for as little as 80 cents per dose. Doesn't that seem like something the insurance industry could get behind in order to drastically slash their costs and improve their profits?

Either way, we find ourselves in familiar territory here because once again we are being told the only reason these miracle cures aren't in widespread use is because there is some conspiracy at work.  Burzynski staff members, medical conspiracy theorists, alternative medical gurus, and "Internet researchers" are quick to list any number of excuses on why Burzynski's hypothesis have yet to be published or why there is no peer-reviewed science supporting his claims, but at the end of the day that is just what they are... excuses.

The reality is antineoplastons have been studied elsewhere outside of Burzynski's clinic, and yet there have been no indications that they work as well as Burzynski has claimed.  Japanese scientists at the Kurume University School of Medicine have studied antineoplastons as have researchers from Mansoura University in Mansoura, Egypt.  Their results generally reflect a lack of activity, however that isn't to say there isn't any benefit to them at all or that continued research is worthless, but the current reality is they are not a miracle cure as we have been led to believe. 

If antineoplastons are really as effective as Burzynski claims, or if they are a viable cancer treatment, then by all means Burzynski has the option... or rather the duty, to publish his findings for all to see.  I think we all know why that hasn't happened - and it has more to do with keeping the steady flow of scared, ignorant patients coming through the doors year after year than it does from his research somehow being suppressed or manipulated.

Meanwhile people continue to die from cancer each and every day while proponents of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) attempt to convince us that cancer can be cured via unproven treatments and snakeoil. 

Some people have no shame... and unfortunately in this case that lack of shame leads to false hope, increased suffering, and unnecessary expense.


  1. Thanks for the link to my Master List. I've just updated it to include the latest news..

    It was reported today (here: that an elderly lady is seeking punitive damages from Burzynski and his companies for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, deceptive trade and conspiracy.

    Andy Lewis has already written a Quackometer about this here:

  2. Very nice and thanks for everything you have done to keep people informed about Burzynski.

    I appreciate the updates, and I'll make a point to frequent your master list in the future as I'm sure there will be much more added - especially after April.

  3. Mr. Hubbs - one of your latest comments begings as follows: "Thus, Burzynski has decided the (SIC) best way to get his message out to the masses is to star in a movie about himself to share his story, and of course like all the other alternative medicine mockumentaries prior, the movie (SIC) serves no legitimate scientific benefit and is heavily biased. Of course the glaring lack of peer-reviewed science or supporting evidence is irrelevant to a medical (SIC) conspiracy theorist, and as such the alternative medical proponents such as Lowell Hubbs have(SIC) latched on to this little film as evidence of some massive conspiracy. They will even go so far as to cite it as a legitimate source of data, and they will refer to the film as if it was a true(SIC) unbiased and scientifically supported documentary."

    So obviously what you are doing is quoting my original text and adding (SIC) on the points you seem to disagree with. That is interesting, but aside from the fact you don't even know how to use quotation marks, it appears you don't know what it means when people add "[sic]" to quoted text. It does not indicate someone disagrees with something... it is a way to identify an error in the original text such as a misspelling or grammatical error etc. Sic is the latin term for thus, and therefore you look like a fool when you attempt to use it in the wrong context. I must admit I routinely am forced to use the term in response to your comments since they are packed full of grammatical and spelling errors, but if you think you're being smart by doing the same to others... you are once again sadly mistaken.

    As to the rest of your comment, since it begins with profanity and includes several other "colorful" words... I'm not about to post it.

    Sorry Mr. Hubbs.

  4. I wonder why there is only 3 comments to this article. My bet is that the comments supporting burzinski and proving you to be a propaganda source for misinformation in an attempt to delegitimize burzinski all get deleted which will probably include my comment. Your last sentence in the article cracks me up because it sounds exactly like something someone would say who has no shame.

    1. Well as much as I hate to disappoint you, the reason for a lack of comments supporting Burzynski is merely because nobody has posted a comment in support of his nonsense. Why that is I cannot say, but if someone is naive enough to believe you can cure cancer and nobody will notice then asking them to navigate the Internet to find a random blog is probably quite a stretch.

      I tell you what - if you can post any peer reviewed science supporting anything Burzynski has claimed I'll be sure your comment is posted. Fair?


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