Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski- fraud or martyr of FDA: Treating unoperable brain cancer

 Vos iz neias     A Houston family has launched a petition to the Obama administration in an effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to allow their six year old son access to a treatment that they hope will cure his aggressive brain cancer.

Elisha Cohen was diagnosed with anaplastic medulloblastoma in October of 2012 and since that time has undergone neurosurgery and high dose chemotherapy to treat his cancer.  While tests showed that the treatments had initially eradicated the tumor, it returned several months later and was deemed by doctors to be untreatable.

“The doctors told me to go home, to take my son to Disneyland,” Elisha’s mother, Devorah Cohen told VIN News.  “But Jewish people don’t give up.  It is not what we do.” [...]

But most importantly, please daven for Refael Elisha Meir ben Devora.  Hashem can hear my son right now and we know that Hashem can bring Elisha a yeshua.”
USA Today [...]    Burzynski — an internist with no board certification or formal training in oncology — has said publicly that he can cure half of the estimated 200 children a year diagnosed with brainstem tumors. The Cottos were told that treatment could cost over $100,000, mostly out of pocket, because insurance plans often refuse to cover Burzynski Clinic treatments.

Burzynski, 70, calls his drugs "antineoplastons" and says he has given them to more than 8,000 patients since 1977. [...]

Yet the National Cancer Institute says there is no evidence that Burzynski has cured a single patient, or even helped one live longer. He has not backed up his claims by publishing results from a randomized, controlled trial — considered the gold standard of medical evidence — in a respected, peer-reviewed journal.

And Burzynski's drugs pose a risk of serious harm, including coma, swelling near the brain and death, according to the NCI and informed consent documents that patients sign before beginning treatment. While Burzynski has touted his treatments as an alternative to chemotherapy, a 1999 NCI study found that antineoplastons can cause many of the same side effects as conventional chemo: nausea, vomiting, headaches, muscle pain, confusion and seizures. [...]

"He's a snake oil salesman," says pediatric oncologist Peter Adamson, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "This has gone on for so many years, it's really unbelievable."

For 36 years, critics say, Burzynski has been selling false hope to desperate families at the most vulnerable time of their lives.

"When you want so hard to believe something, you end up listening to your heart and not your head," says Lisa Merritt of Armuchee, Ga., whose husband, Wayne, was treated briefly by Burzynski in 2009. The couple say that Burzynski misled them about the type of treatment that would be offered, as well as the cost. Burzynski, she says, is "the worst kind of predator."[...]



    1. Mercola is a money grubbing crank who promotes all sorts of quackery and דרכי האמורי on his website. Don't waste your time.

  2. The story is that we simply don't understand cancer well-enough at this point to know what works. Both sides are guessing. That being said, unless the treatment is known to do harm, why not try it.

    1. The treatment does have side effects and is very expensive. The Aruch HaShulchan paskens (OC 301:80) that we should only consult with expert doctors. Burzynski is not an expert, and the experts have testified that people should get treated at his clinic.

    2. (1) It is known to pose serious risks. THe FDA stopped the "clinical trial" after another young boy died from poisoning by the extremely high doses. (I put clinical trial in quotes because they've been going on for years with no published results - it seems the main point of the "trial" is to allo Dr. B. to continue to charge for his services, not to prove his treatment effective.)

      (2) For a more technical read, see The take home of the article is basically that the major compound this Dr seems to be using is actually approved to treat other diseases and can therefore be prescribed by any doctor "off label" to a cancer patient, and that it is vaguely plausible that this compound helps in cases of brain cancer. However, the way this particular doctor sells his "therapies" involves lots of outright lying and misrepresentation, and what he is doing is neither just using this one comound nor testing it or others, but rather basically throwing lots of toxic chemicals at people and seeing what happens (while smiling all the way to the bank).

  3. Ephraim and EM, I certainly understand what you are saying. However, there are no experts here. If there were, they would have cured the child by now. Instead, they say he cannot be cured, chas v'shalom. By definition, that means they do not know what to do. You both raise valid points, but in this case, if the only other alternative is to do nothing and let him die, I think it is worth a chance.

    Unfortunately, many research proposals for cancer are similarly based on wild guesses, and trial and error. We need more of our best and brightest to enter scientific fields, and try to understand the molecular basis of diseases. The future of medicine will actually lie in physics, when we develop ways to understand protein folding and function, based on amino acid sequence, and the interaction of nucleic acids with polypeptides in a systematic way. We also need better tools to visualize molecules in real-time. The Nobel in chemistry this year was awarded to fellows who began the field of molecular dynamics, which involves using computers to analyze and predict 3-D structure of molecules. It is only in the very beginning. All who want to participate, should join. (Pay attention during limudei chol.) B'ezras hashem, that will lead to real progress, ahead. Right now, the options available are very limited. I am not in any way advocating Burzynski's approach, and I will look up the sources you cite. But if there is none other, maybe it is worth a chance.

    1. Your last sentence : I fully agree with you, thinking that Hashem Makes
      it working.

  4. i have heard from a reputable source that some doctors in Europe and Australia do successfully manage some forms of cancer


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