By Keir Liddle
The antineoplasteon therapy offered by the Burzynski Clinic is popular among advocates of integrative, alternative and natural medicine. Mike Adams of Natural News is a keen advocate of the therapy as is Dr Josepth Mercola. The Alliance for Natural Health has even gone so far to lobby various Texas Legislative Oversight Committees and Gov. Rick Perry. All seemingly based on the idea that antineoplasteons are a “naturally” occurring, gene-targeted, and non-toxic treatment for cancer.
Not only is the efficacy of antineoplasteons in question, due to the Burzynskis clinics slack and ethically dubious approach to research, to state they are non-toxic is perhaps also dubious as in a phase II trial of antineoplastons A10 and AS2-1 in brain tumor patients reported severe nervous system side effects including sleepiness, confusion, seizures, and swelling near the brain.
In one sense It is really weird that the alt-med community are behind Burzynski. There’s nothing traditionally alternative about his approach (apart from its dubious efficacy) given that he manufactures synthetic chemical compounds in a lab, and administers them in massive quantities to patients using an invasive technique.
But could these antineoplastons simply be a smoke screen?
A post defending Burzysnki’s practice has raised questions over exactly what treatment is being offered suggesting that the treatments offered by the clinic are not all that different from treatments offered by other private clinics based upon the idea of individualised treatment for cancer. The post goes so far as to describe the activities of the Burzynski clinic as largely “mainstream” asides from the controversial antineoplasteon therapy offered.
In a blow for those who proclaim Burzynski as a hero of alternative medicine and a victim of the “cancer industry” the post states:
The majority of cases I witnessed in the clinic were prescribed gene targeted medication from the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world
The post goes on to state that the clinic prescribes these drugs “off label” by giving drugs approved for one cancer to patients suffering from another – purportedly on the basis of shared gene markers. If this post is an accurate reflection of the clinics practice than rather than defending the clinics actions it simply raises more questions about it. Given the quality of Burzynskis published results can we really be confident in this practice of seemingly throwing (very expensive) chemo at people and seeing what sticks?
This seems to be further supported in allegations made in a complaint to the Texas Medical board (a summary is available from the ministry of truth blog) which will be explored in a hearing in April of next year. The complaint relates to two of Burzynskis patients and details the alleged use of “off-label” chemo drugs in the treatment of various cancers. Some relevent paragraphs are quoted below:
Respondent prescribed a combination of five immunotherapy agents – phenylbutyrate, erlotinib, dasatinib, vorinostat, and sorafenib-which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for the treatment of breast cancer, and which do not meet the FDA’s regulations for the use of off-label drugs in breast cancer therapy.
This expensive cocktail of chemo is alleged to have lead to unwarranted side effects and the clinic is also accused of not making it clear to patients that the drugs provided came from a pharmacy owned by them. Which is certainly ethically dubious if true.
Even more worryingly is the case of the second patient contained in the complaint:
Follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) scans were conducted in approximately August and December of 2003, and March of 2004, which showed progressive disease. Patient B was continued on phenylbutyrate during this 11 -month time period, and was not sufficiently informed about the drug’s lack of efficacy on her disease.
This is particularly ethically dubious given the pharmacy ownership issue. For more info on the complaint please do read the full Ministry of Truth post on the matter.
So despite the sometimes vehement support Burzynski attracts from the alt-med community it seems that the majority of his treatment, excluding those dubious antineoplasteons, is standard big pharma product. So all those proponents of natural medicines and therapies would seem to have become chemotherapy shills.
Which would be a delicious irony were it not for the vulnerable patients who spend thousands to attend the clinic and receive their seemingly slap dash approach to individualised or matched therapy.
To anyone considering raising the funds to attend the clinic I would say that the allegations raised against them suggest they aren’t doing anything different to many, many other clinics other than charging far more. The only unique thing they appear to offer is a therapy for which there is little evidence of any real quality that the majority of the scientific and medical community doubt works at all.
But all is not lost Cancer Research UK is conducting trials into stratified medicine approaches similar to those offered in American private clinics and while properly conducted research is currently at a preliminary stage but the initial results seem to suggest that matching treatment to individuals is promising. To donate to Cancer Research and support the development of these treatments so they might one day become available on the NHS go here.