Sunday, 6 November 2011

Stanislaw Burzynski: Cancer fundraising for quack treatments

Stanislaw Bursinski.docx

Stanislaw Burzynski sells a number of things, among them are books, movies and cancer treatments. The primary thing Mr. Burzynski sells, however, is hope. Hope is a powerful and heady treatment; it can do many things. It can help your friends and family to raise money for expensive overseas treatments. It can inspire well know bands to, with the best of intentions, donate a signed guitar to help raise funds for the same reason. Hope can bring you succor during the darkest times of your life, it can help you through tough times and give your the courage to face another day of suffering. The one thing it can't do, however, is cure cancer. And if the hope you are sold is false, if it costs you and your family their livelihood and potentially your life, then it is worse than worthless, and those who sell it are opportunists and vultures of the lowest order. An author might be indulged for a moment to imagine that, when such vultures as these gather in their circling, fetid flocks, they may pause in their horrid shrieking and take a moment to murmur to each other across the winds a single name; "Burzynski ".

Stanislaw Burzynski was born in 1943 in Poland, where he received his education and qualifications, and later moved to the USA to practice and conduct research. In 1977 he founded the Burzynski Clinic in Huston, Texas, with the intention of treating people with what he calls Antineoplastons, a group of substances isolated and extracted from urine by none other than himself. He was featured on day time TV back the in the 80's as a genius doctor possessed of a miracle cure to otherwise incurable cancers. Several of the patients touted as 'cured' on the show later died, but this failed to stop Burzynski, or the myth of his miracle cure. Antineoplastonshave been tested by other institutes in Japan and elsewhere, but only Burzynski's own studies have turned in positive effects in the treatment of cancer. In 1990's the state of Texas came down hard on Burzynski; he's been found guilty of health insurance fraud, been ordered to cease and desist advertising his products as cures for cancer, and has been ordered to stop selling them without FDA approved clinical trials. How is it that Burzynski is still in business? Well, he's conducting those trials of course. Expensive, costly trials of consistently unproven treatments that you can take part in. For a price. Somewhere in the region of €75,000 euros per year, in fact.

I heavily recommend reading Orac's blog on Burzynski, as he gives an excellent breakdown of the clinics activities and the dangers of this sort of treatment. Go ahead, read it now. I'll wait.

You're back - excellent. So, given that Burzynski has been so well torn apart by Orac, and others, why am I writing about him again? Well, for a simple reason. Last year a movie was release called Burzynski - Cancer is Big Business which details the trials and tribulations of this modern day Hippocrates. It paints him and his treatment in the best possible light, and has unfortunately catapulted the Burzynski Clinic back into the limelight. It was shown last year in alternative health centers and nutritional centers throughout Ireland, even appearing in our very own Galway. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to a wave of desperate people in Ireland and England to seek treatment from this... man. You may have already heard of a toddler in Cork who died after her parents choose Burzynski's treatment over chemotherapy. There are Burzynski fundraisers going on right now in cities across Ireland, run by good, well meaning people who are earnestly trying their best to save a friend or loved on from death. This kindness and goodwill will all be for naught if the treatment funded turns out to be unproven, useless rubbish. In England, Radiohead are selling a signed guitar on E-bay to raise money for the Billi Butterfly Fund to pay for cancer treatment at Burzynski's clinic for a four year old girl with inoperable brain cancer, whose mother is also suffering from breast cancer. I'm not going to link to Billi’s site, because frankly you don't want to read it. It is literally heartbreaking. The brave will find it as the first hit if the google the phrase above. This girl's cancer may not be treatable conventionally, I have no idea, but this money would be better spent on palliative care, on research funding, on a trip for Billi to Disneyland, or on literally anything else. Instead it's going to line the pocket of a cancer quack with a very real body count to his name.

So please, if you know anyone thinking of spending money on Stanislaw Burzynski, or the Burzynski Clinic, then please, be considerate, be understanding and be supportive. But also please be sane, and just direct them towards Orac's blog, or here, or any of the other solid skeptical sites that have investigated him. It's likely you'll be met with hostility; often criticism is interpreted as negativity, but do it anyway. There's a very real chance you'll save a life.

Thanks to Orac, @Zenbuffy (Link to her excellent blog here), and others for the info and inspiration used in this post.