A followup to Monday's story about a representative from the controversial Burzynski Clinic (a cancer clinic that is presently treating a British girl whose family raised £200,000 for her care) sending threatening letters to bloggers who questioned the science behind Burzynski's therapy:
First, the Burzynski clinic says it has severed its relationship with Marc Stephens, which seems like a good idea. Sending threatening, ungrammatical, frothing emails to scientists and skeptics who raise technical questions about medical therapy makes your therapy look like woo that can only be defended with intimidation rather than science.
Second, the clinic has released a list of Burzynski's "publications" on his therapy, prompting a scientist named Jen McCreight to dig through the list and determine how compelling these publications are.
McCreight's findings aren't good. Burzynski's publications are either review papers (which add no new findings to the literature), publications in zero-impact or low-impact journals (that is, journals that aren't cited by other oncologists), publications in "alternative medicine" journals (McCreight quotes Tim Minchin: "You know what they call alternative medicine that's been proved to work? Medicine."); unreviewed talk-proposals submitted without peer review to reputable journals; or unreviewed conference proceedings.
In McCreight's check of Burzynski's list of publications, not one publication met her standard for real, peer-reviewed, published research in a reputable journal.
The Burzynski clinic is claiming that it’s libelous to say “There are no scientific studies supporting antineoplason treatment since 2006.” But it’s not libelous because it is true. Results that lack peer review cannot be said to support something. Abstracts at conferences are not peer reviewed. Review papers do not include new, peer-reviewed data. The only published paper he has itself states that it is inconclusive without a larger study to confirm the results.
Plus, they don’t even understand what the phrase “since 2006″ means. It means published starting in 2007. From that alone we throw out the first two papers. You’re left with a review paper that cites conference abstracts, and conference abstracts.
So no, Burzynski clinic. There aren’t any scientific studies supporting antineoplason treatment since 2006. But there are plenty falsifying it.
Allow me to take this opportunity, once again, to remind the Burzynski clinic of Boing Boing's tradition of vigorously defending ourselves against legal threats, and the frankly titanic sums that our opponents have had to pay to our lawyers when we beat them like tin drums. And allow me to remind them that in US law, recipients of legal threats can ask courts to rule on those threats, even if the person who made the threat withdraws it or fails to bring suit, and that in those cases, courts can award costs to the victors.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.