Texas Medical Board discontinues prosecution of noted cancer quack

As regular readers of this blog know, cancer quackery is a topic relevant to my interests as a cancer patient.

Robert Blaskiewicz has written extensively about the epic quackery of one of the most well-known "cancer cure" promosters, Stanislaw Burzynski (left).

The Texas-based "alternative cure practitioner" fails to liberate patients from cancer, but has a remarkable talent for liberating them from their money.

Today, Blaskiewicz shares an update on the Texas Medical Board's long-running prosecution of Burzynski.

The short version: He's free to continue exploiting cancer patients there.

Come to think of it, a ham sandwich could probably get a medical license in Texas, these days.

Robert Blaskiewicz tells Boing Boing:

It’s with a heavy heart that I must report that Stanislaw Burzynski, the Houston cancer quack who charges exorbitant amounts to the most desperate terminal cancer patients to enroll in bogus clinical trials, retains his medical license in Texas (PDF) and is free to continue to do what he has been doing for 35 years. On Tuesday, the Texas Medical Board decided to discontinue its prosecution of Burzynski. This comes on the heels of the judges’ decision that Burzynski was not liable for the actions of the physicians in his employ. According to the Motion to Dismiss: “[the judges] reaffirmed in Order No. 16 that [the law in question] did not address civil liability for physicians other than surgeons working in operating room settings or stand for the proposition that the actions of a licensed physician may create administrative liability for the license of another physician. The Honorable [judges] concluded they would not consider evidence of administrative vicarious liability.”

This ruling effectively torpedoed the case. The Medical Board seems to have never even have gotten the opportunity to address the facts regarding these patients’ treatment. There is a chance that the otherwise unemployable doctors who work for Burzynski will lose their licenses (the patients in question certainly did not go into the Burzynski Clinic and treat themselves). Nonetheless, I’m sure that it will come to a shock to the people who empty their bank accounts at Burzynski’s feet that Burzynski does not officially treat them and assumes absolutely no responsibility for their outcomes.

Burzynski supporters (it’s amazing, but yes, even this guy has supporters) have trumpeted this as some sort of vindication of the treatment, which of course it’s not. He still, after 35 years, does not have a single clinical trial to back up the claim that his treatments work, a fact reinforced recently by an order from the FDA to Burzynski (PDF) to stop promoting his treatment, antineoplastons (ANP), as if it were safe and effective.

Nonetheless, according to reports by patients on social media, the shonky treatment and unfathomable medical advice proceed as usual at the Burzynski Clinic. A heartbreaking post from the family of one young cancer patient went up on facebook this week:

According to David Gorski, a clinical oncologist, researcher, and patient advocate who has written extensively about Burzynski and his bad science, when a cancer responds to treatment, it will usually shrink from the outside or open up on the inside like disgusting Swiss cheese. Necrotic material in the center more likely means that the tumor has outgrown its blood supply and probably reveals nothing about whether or not the tumor is responding to treatment. This would have been understood by real doctors.

Currently, the only way that Burzynski can legally give ANP to patients is if they are part of a clinical trial and are given a special medical exemption by the FDA to participate. Why the FDA continues to pour patients into the Clinic, which has not completed and published a single study out of dozens and dozens of trials over the decades is beyond me, and the FDA has been uniformly unresponsive to FOIA requests about the ANP trials and the patient approval process. Patients deserve better than Burzynski, and they deserve better protection than what either the Texas Medical Board or the FDA is currently providing.


If you want to help protect patients, the best thing that you can do right now is WRITE about Burzynski. You can also make a point of linking to sites that have reliable information about what really goes on at Burzynski’s clinic. Don’t link directly to the man, his site, or his patients’ sites. We need to clog the channels that people usually use to reach this charlatan with reliable information.

Thanks for the update, Bob.

We've written about Burzynski and cancer quackery here on Boing Boing before; related archives below.


      1. Bob, you do not understand the placebo effect: it is a real measurable effect which is different than receiving no treatment. Actually it is real effects, plural, since there are different kinds of placebo effects.

        Of course that is not germane to the quackery of this quack in Texas.

  1. I am not surprised. He has been at it awhile and uses all tools at his disposal effectively muddying the water and blocking any light into the quagmire that is his “practice”. 

    That’s when he’s not accepting half a mil from individuals desperate enough to look past 34 years of failing to stop a cancer.

    Check out his latest tool for reaching prospective marks. A “documentary”.

    In the 80s I wondered how long he could keep gaming the system (easy at the time, he only had to game the Texas system, in which no physician had to comply with federal anything, until 1995). In the nineties it became clear he would continue gaming but on the federal level.

    This clinic will end when he dies, then some less bureaucratically/legally/media savvy individual will try and use his methods and fail. THEN… it will just be another, with a different “cure”, because desperate people.

    1. This clinic will end when he dies

      No his son is trained in the family traditions and is doing much of the day-to-day money collection. The scam has gone dynastic.

    1. For people with big money or good coverage the Texas Medical Center is on a short list of places to get the best possible medical care.

      The institutions there have shit loads of corporate interchange. 

      However, the Mcdonald’s you find in such places are a little different, and children going through treatments of varying difficulties seem to very much like Mcdonalds, like many other kids.

      Personally I consider a hospital with a fast food joint analogous to a pharmacy selling cigarettes, but it brings small comfort to people who need it so I’d give em’ a smoking area too.

      1. Interesting.  Wonder if there’s a common physiological thread there with hangovers.  

        That said, I have to think that they could’ve at least put in a great Mexican greasy spoon, instead of a friggin’ McDonald’s.  Jeez.

        1. There’s plenty in any direction from there. Some of the reasons there is a McD instead is millions paid for the privilege, RMcD House, et al. Good Mex-Tex-Mex can’t afford that kind of location.

          But don’t paint me as pro-McD, the chump change they throw out to whitecoat-wash their horrible enterprise is insignificant.

        2. It seemed entirely individual.  We used to put them all on clear liquid diets until one patient told us that she did better on sloppy joes.  Then we just let them order what they wanted and many of them chose hamburgers or pizza.

          McDonald’s wouldn’t be my choice either because it smells sort of sweet / yeasty / bland, which makes me want to throw up all the time.  If I’m nauseated, I crave grapefruit juice.

  2. The Texan law appears to be designed specifically so that doctors can protect themselves from prosecution by hiring an underling to administer the chosen quackery rather than do it in person. “I was just giving orders.”

  3. Can anyone provide a quick summary of his quackery? What treatments does he espouse? Is there any evidence his methods work – if not, why do people go to him?

    I know I could research this on my own, but maybe someone can provide the reader’s-digest version?

    1. Antineoplastons (ANP) are a derivative of a drug used to treat urea cycle disorders. He says that they are absent in the urine of people with cancer, so he “replenishes” them, basically pumping them full of ANP and random chemo cocktails. When someone happens to survive meeting him, they blame the ANP. For 35+ years he has failed to produce a single published study that demonstrates that he does anything more than a wallet biopsy.

    2. Quackwatch has more info than you can shake a stick at, starting here: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/burzynski1.html
      The treatment seems to have varied a bit over the years, but at the core, it’s peptides, isolated from urine.

      As to why people go to him, there are a couple of factors.

      For one, Burzynski has been quite lucky. In 1992, there was apparently political support for making the FDA more friendly to alternative therapy. So, politics got involved, and Burzynski has actually been able to say that he’s running FDA-approved clinical trials. This sucks hard, because to a casual audience, or to someone who wants to believe, it appears to legitimize him.

      Plus the dude has a “documentary” – maybe hagiography is the term? Infomercial that misrepresents itself and often gets misfiled as a documentary? Anyway, that film has made lots of converts, I think, because it has some surface appearance of impartial inquiry, but only interviews people who are believers, and never presents opposing arguments.

  4. Truly, the saddest part about this is that it’s so unnecessary for desperate cancer patients to seek out money-grubbing, lying quacks.

    I mean, it’s so easy for them to get into legitimate, supervised clinical trials where new treatments with a decent chance of success are being tested.

    Right??  Right????

  5. Who’d give money to this guy? He doesn’t even look like a doctor! Looks like an extra from the Andy Griffith show, maybe the guy who ran the shoe store.

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