'Alternative cancer care' provider Stanislaw Burzynski accused of selling false hope in USA Today investigation

Stanislaw Burzynski, an internist, has treated patients with experimental, unapproved cancer drugs at a clinic in Houston. (Photo: Michael Stravato for USA TODAY).

An extensive investigative story in USA Today finds experts questioning why the FDA allows Stanislaw Burzynski, a doctor in Houston, Texas, to continue to sell his "alternative cancer treatment" to vulnerable patients and their families. Burzynski calls his miracle drugs "antineoplastons," and first synthesized the sodium-rich compounds from blood and urine "collected from public parks, bars and penitentiaries." They haven't been approved by the FDA, but he has also "prescribed them as a treatment for AIDS, lupus and other conditions."

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.

This is, as far as I can tell, the most extensive investigation ever of his operations by a major news organization.

One pediatrician quoted in the article uses a phrase many bloggers and reporters have used over the years, despite retaliatory legal threats from Burzynski's reps: The pediatrician calls Burzynski a "snake oil salesman."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

He exploits people like me, who have cancer and want to live, in the worst imaginable way.

When will the FDA shut him down?

Read the investigative story here.

Boing Boing's archives on Burzynski here.

Update: Quack medicine propagandist Eric Merola and Stanislaw Burzynski respond to the USA Today story, writes Orac at scienceblogs.com. And David Gorski has a related post: "The Burzynski Empire strikes back."

Notable Replies

  1. What part of "Yet the National Cancer Institute says there is no evidence that Burzynski has cured a single patient, or even helped one live longer" is unclear to you?

  2. It's really great that you were able to see such a positive result to your battle with Cancer.

    However, the statement that 'therefore, according to the FDA I was cured' is inaccurate, in the same way that if I have a cold, take an herbal remedy and then recover, saying that I am cured by that remedy is inaccurate.

    Cancers do remiss on their own, and the function and form of that remission is not fully understood, and hopefully further study will help to understand those scenarios - the goal of a clinical trial, properly blinded and randomized and then peer reviewed, is to isolate the different components and variables to best determine cause and effect - and as noted, Burzynski has made only piecemeal efforts to properly study his treatment.

  3. "Snake Oil Salesman"/"Merchant of Death"; Potato/Spud; Gasoline/Petrol -- alternative terms to use as one sees fit...

  4. Another "mind game" people like to play is imagining that there is a vast conspiracy of big companies keeping natural cures from a sick public (see: Kevin Trudeau), how many times have I heard about how the oil companies bought up the rights to a car that runs on water and are keeping it hidden from the public?

    Burzynski has been plying his antineoplaston therapy since 1977, and in all that time NCI, the American Cancer Society, Cancer Research UK, and the Mayo Clinic have found no evidence that his trials provide any benefit at all. Independent oncologists asked to look at his data describe it as flawed and "scientific nonsense" and cannot reproduce his results. He also charges a lot of money for these "trials." All of that sure sounds like "snake oil salesman" to me, but hey, I could be wrong; monkeys have never flown out of my ass before either, but that could happen at any moment.

    Also, knowing that Burzynski has hired people to threaten online critics makes me suspicious of newly created usernames who have only commented on this one thread.

  5. All that article says is that the Burzynski Clinic made a presentation about their non-peer-reviewed, as-yet-unsubtantiated claims to a bunch of people in Beijing. And let's not leave out this little detail:

    Source: Burzynski Clinic

    So that was really just a pro-Buyzynski press release.

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