Bioethics Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Entertainment/culture Medicine Movies Quackery

Burzynski The Movie: Is Stanislaw Burzynski a pioneering cancer researcher or a quack?

I’ve been thinking about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. You remember the Holy Hand Grenade, don’t you? It was in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where a cleric goes on and on about how “three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three.”

Yesterday, I counted two and am now proceeding to three.

I figured that, after spending two posts on how Burzynski’s minions and shills (in particular a man named Marc Stephens) have been making baseless legal threats against bloggers, I should talk a bit more about the evidence regarding Dr. Burzynski claims as evidence for the efficacy of his antineoplaston therapy, and a perfect way to do that is to take a closer look at another medical propaganda film, this one made to sing the praises of Dr. Burzynski as a brave maverick doctor curing cancer while The Man tries to keep him down (and, of course, let cancer patients die because they can’t have access to the glory that is Dr. Burzynski).

I’ve never been shy about letting my readers know exactly what I think of certain medical propaganda movies. No one would ever confuse my reviews with those of Roger Ebert (mine tend to be a lot longer, for one thing, and concentrate on science much more than moviemaking), but I do sometimes subject myself to these movies when I can find a way to watch them online that doesn’t cost me any money. I do so hate the thought of my money finding its way into the pockets of quackery supporters. A little more than a week ago, I deconstructed a blatantly anti-vaccine movie that’s been making the rounds called The Greater Good, while before that I took on a movie (Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days) that tried to convince its viewers that it’s possible to cure type I diabetes with a raw vegan diet, dangerous advice if ever there was any. And who could forget the documentary paean to the cancer quackery known as Gerson protocol called The Beautiful Truth?

The appearance of a–shall we say?–fan of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski to harass and threaten bloggers who criticized Dr. Burzynski’s pseudoscientific and unproven anticancer therapy known as antineoplastons reminded me that there is another medical propaganda movie floating around out there. It appeared several months ago and started making the rounds of various film festivals over the summer. Since then, I’ve seen it pointed to as “proof” that Dr. Burzynski is not a cancer quack but rather a misunderstood genius who has discovered the cure for most cancers but has been persecuted by the FDA, the Texas Medical Board, and big pharma because his “natural” therapy supposedly endangers their hegemony and, above all, profits. I’m referring to a documentary film by writer/producer Eric Merola called Burzynski The Movie: Cancer Is Serious Business. Not surprisingly, quackery promoters like Joe Mercola and Mike Adams are singing the praises of this movie to high heaven. Indeed, Mike Adams is even hosting the movie in streaming form on his website. If you don’t want to go to Adams’ website, the movie is also available for free on YouTube:

[NOTE: The Documentary Channel has apparently asserted a copyright claim and forced YouTube to take the video down. The video, however, is still available at that other wretched hive of scum and quackery besides The Huffington Post,

Given that Marc Stephens seems to want to bring attention to Dr. Burzynski so badly, I thought that the least I could do is to oblige him by reviewing Burzynski The Movie and bringing what attention I can to it. In the process, I might even look into a couple of Burzynski’s studies that I’ve read and found to be–well–lacking, to put it kindly. Is it my fault that the attention I mean to bring to Dr. Burzynski and what is in essence a one hour and forty-five minute commercial for the Burzynski Clinic and Burzynski Research Institute is not the sort of attention that Mr. Stephens wants? Well, actually, it is, but Burzynski certainly deserves a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence, but, oddly enough, hasn’t gotten it. One might even say, he’s been Insolenopenic, if you know what I mean.

Of course, Orac can fix that.

A pledge is made

The first thing I wondered upon forcing myself to watch this movie, which, let me tell you, took some effort, was who Eric Merola is. Certainly, he’s an incredibly credulous fellow, given how easily and hard he falls for various bad arguments and bad science put forth by Dr. Burzynski and a man who basically serves as Dr. Burzynski’s costar in the movie, namely Dr. Julian Whitaker, a man who bills himself as an “alternative health pioneer.” We’ve met Dr. Whitaker before, as he is also one of Suzanne Somer’s physicians and was featured in her book Knockout. In Burzynski The Movie, Dr. Whitaker has his nose embedded so far up Dr. Burzynski’s rectum that Dr. Burzynski wouldn’t need a colonoscopy if Merola just strapped a light to Dr. Whitaker’s face. We haven’t, as far as I can remember, met Eric Merola before. In the movie’s promotional materials, Merola is described as a freelance art director for many of the top Madison Avenue advertising agencies in New York who launched Merola Productions, a company that’s done ads for a number of large companies and projects for various cable channels. According to Merola, the reason he wanted to do Burzynski The Movie because:

After spending over a decade immersed in all aspects of the media world, Eric became aware of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and realized his was a story that must be told. Having always been heavily influenced by the power of documentary films, he set out to direct and produce the story of Dr. Burzynski and his patients.

Personally, given Merola’s background in advertising, I have to wonder whether Dr. Burzynski just hired Merola to make an infomercial. Merola claims the movie was his idea, but I have a hard time believing it. I suppose it’s possible given that he is apparently steeped in cancer quackery books, but the end product of his work is so one-sided that it’s a joke, and a bad one at that. Certainly this movie plays like one. There’s even something very odd and disconcerting about the narration. It has an almost robotic quality about it, and the background music is uniformly ominous while the production values are definitely second rate. In addition, unlike even The Greater Good, which at least throws a few token scientists and skeptics in to argue the “other side” only to shoot them down, never is heard in this movie a skeptical word about Dr. Burzynski. The praise heaped on Burzynski and the venom poured on his critics get pretty tiring after a while. By the time the documentary’s credits rolled, I was drained. That’s definitely 1:48 h of my life that I’ll never get back.

Basically, the movie is broken into two parts, an introductory section with three testimonials followed by the story of the “persecution” of Dr. Burzynski by the medical establishment. These testimonials are far more manipulative than even the testimonials featured in The Greater Good, because each of them are of the type that portrays doctors as sending a patient home to die; that is, until the “brave maverick doctor,” (Stanislaw R. Burzynski, MD, PhD, of course) comes to the rescue with his unconventional and unproven therapy. These testimonials are, in essence, the best evidence the filmmaker can come up with to “prove” that Dr. Burzynski’s “antineoplaston” therapy can cure cancer. Indeed, Merola makes this explicit right at the very beginning of the movie:

This is the story of a medical doctor and PhD biochemist who has discovered the genetic mechanism that can cure most human cancers. The opening 30 minutes of this film is designed to thoroughly establish this fact — so the viewer can fully appreciate the events that follow it.

I watched, hoping to see evidence from science and clinical trials, but the only evidence presented to “thoroughly establish” that Burzynski “can cure most human cancers” consists not of clinical trials, not of animal studies, not of basic science. Rather, it consists of three testimonials that take up the first 30 minutes of the movie. The remaining tedious–and I do mean tedious, real tedious–hour-plus of the movie consists of one big, JFK-style conspiracy theory. Because of Burzynski’s “miracle cure” for most cancers, known as “antineoplastons,” if you believe Merola, the FDA, big pharma, and the cancer establishment want to put Burzynski out of business not to protect the public but rather to protect industry profits and FDA power. The rest of the movie is about the FDA, the NCI, the Texas Medical Board, and various other entities investigating, or, as the movie implies, persecuting this “brave maverick doctor” because he’s found a cure for most kinds of cancer.

But has he?

Certainly all too many families seem to think he has. Indeed, a little over a week ago, a skeptical blogger whose work I admire, Andy Lewis, wrote a post about two charity concerts that a British performer named Peter Kay was doing to raise money to pay for the medical care of a four-year-old girl named Billie Bainbridge, who, tragically, has an inoperable and very rare brain tumor known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Now, given that the UK has the NHS, which pays for the health care of its citizens, you might wonder why such spectacular sums of money (in this case, £200,000–I kid you not) would be needed for this child. It turns out that the money raised is to be used to take Billie to the Burzynski Clinic in Texas. This reminded me very much of a campaign I remember seeing two years ago for a woman with medullary thyroid cancer named Rene Louis, who, although she had health insurance, wanted to pursue Burzynski’s methods, which her insurance quite correctly refused to pay for. In fact, it turns out that this is not an uncommon scenario for Burzynski patients, with patients like Louis or families like the Bainbridge or the Hofsess family, having been convinced that Burzynski is their only hope, going to the media and managing to get human interest stories written about their campaigns to raise money. Some, like Rene Louis or the Hofsess family, go so far as to set up charitable organizations to continue to raise money for others seeking Burzynski’s treatment. Unfortunately, the “human interest” interest in these stories rarely mixes with a skeptical or science-based viewpoint, even though the more appropriate spin on such stories is to portray them as consumer issues. If only the spin on such stories was more like that of the story of Wayne Merritt!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the woo that is antineoplaston therapy, I’ve written about it once before, and Quackwatch has more than one excellent summaries (here as well), as do the NCI website, the American Cancer Society, and others. The short version of the story behind antineoplastons is that there is no good basic science or clinical evidence to suggest that antineoplastons have any significant activity against cancer. Despite that fact, Burzynski has been able to administer them to patients for over 30 years, despite serious efforts by the Texas Medical Board to shut him down in the 1990s. Since then, he’s operated under a consent decree that keeps him from administering medicines that are not FDA-approved except under the auspices of a clinical trial. So, as described above, Dr. Burzynski has lots of clinical trials and charges his patients lots of money for them. You think I’m exaggerating? Doubt no more. Here are the charges presented to a family seeking treatment for a member with bowel cancer:

  1. Physician review of all medical records before your consultation appointment: – $500 non-refundable payment to cover the cost of the physicians’ and clinic’s evaluation services.
  2. Amount due at the time of consultation is as follows:
    – $1,000.00 – which covers the initial consultation appointment
    – $4,000.00 – required for lab work – Dr. Burzynski will order our specific Genetic Tumor Markers test. Once Dr. Burzynski receives these results he will determine a personalized therapy which will best treat your cancer.
  3. After Dr Burzynski reviews results and determines your course of treatment a $10,000.00 deposit will be due to start basic treatment.
  4. Additional deposits for prescribed medications will be required due to the FDA just recently approving some of them. Their cost can be very high. That’s why we do not know the exact cost for treatment until these medications have been prescribed. (Estimated deposit for these medications can range between $7,000.00 – $15,000.00).
  5. When you are discharged to go home the monthly deposit for basic treatment will range from $4,500 – $6,000, in addition to medications. From our experience, the treatment regimen may last between 4 to 12 months on average for the majority of our patients.

I’m starting to see now how Billie Bainbridge could need £200,000 fairly quickly, especially given that another blogger, Zeno, reports that there is also a $4,500 to $6,000 “monthly case management fee” charged to all patients at the Burzynski Cinic. He even appears to have photocopied an actual brochure from the clinic. Interesting how none of this information is locatable on the Burzynski Clinic website? What I found interesting is a table that Zeno posted from the brochure. I hope he doesn’t mind my “borrowing” it:


Looking at the table, I noticed immediately that Dr. Burzynski says nothing about survival rates, only “objective response rates,” which are not defined in a meaningful way. The pamphlet defines them as as anything from an “improvement” (defined as “decrease in size of the tumors, not confirmed yet by the second follow-up radiological measurement”) to “complete disappearance of all signs of cancer,” which is utter bollocks. There are standardized ways of measuring tumor response agreed upon by radiologists and oncologists, such as the RECIST criteria. Burzynski lumps all responses together in an oncologically meaningless way. Also remember, Burzynski often uses standard-of-care chemotherapy along with his antineoplastons; so we would expect some responses. The chart above, however, is virtually meaningless, if only for the simple reason that initial tumor response often doesn’t correlate to overall survival, and overall survival is what we care about.

Meanwhile, Burzynski hasn’t published any scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals (at least none indexed on PubMed) since 2006, and none of them in a halfway respectable journal since 2004. Instead, he appears to prefer to publish by press release, reporting results of nonrandomized, single-arm phase II trials and presenting abstracts, where the standard for acceptance is much much lower, comparing his single arm results to historical controls and previous trials, and concluding that his therapy works. A search of demonstrates that over the last 20 years, Burzynski has had dozens of phase I and phase II clinical trials, ten of which are still open and only one of which is listed as completed. Overall, it’s a crappy record, to have so many phase I and II trials over the last 15 or 20 years and so little to show for it in terms of publications from phase II trials and any compound progressing to a phase III trial. Only one phase III trial is listed, and it hasn’t opened yet. That’s a failure in my book. No drug company or researcher would keep doing trials of a drug (and, yes, antineoplastons are drugs when used this way) with such an abysmal track record. A drug company would give it up as unpromising, and a university researcher would soon find he could no longer secure funding for more trials.

Of course, a pattern has emerged over the years. Whenever Burzynski does a trial, the results come out as promising, with minimal or mild toxicity. When other researchers do a trial with his neoplastons, the results aren’t nearly as promising; in fact, the results are pretty much always negative, and significant adverse reactions are observed. In both cases, huge amounts of antineoplaston, ranging from 0.33 g/kg/d to 7.95 g/kg/d, the latter of which is a mind-blowing amount of any chemical to pump into someone’s body. In the late 1990s three well-respected oncologists reviewed Burzynski’s clinical trial evidence and all agreed that:

  • The protocols are poorly designed and data are not interpretable.
  • The toxicities of the antineoplastons treatment are significant and life-threatening.
  • The data do not justify making antineoplastons available under special exceptions.
  • Burzynski is conducting more clinical trials than his data justify.
  • Burzynski’s claim that antineoplastons produce “stable disease,” which he considers a positive result, runs counter to established rules for interpretation of clinical trials data.
  • Withdrawal by patients described by Burzynski as having responded is unusual in the practice of medicine.
  • If Burzynski wants to convince patients and physicians that his drug works, he will have to accept the established mechanisms of clinical trials.

The science just isn’t there. Yet, like the Energizer Bunny, Dr. Burzynski keeps going and going and going and going.

When you don’t have science, hit ’em with testimonials!

It’s abundantly clear, that scientifically speaking, Burzynski just doesn’t have the goods. So, in making a hagiography of Dr. Burzynski in celluloid form, what choice does Burzynski’s shill Eric Merola have, other than to beat his audience over the head with testimonials? If you thought The Greater Good was bad in its emotionally manipulative use of testimonials, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Burzynski The Movie takes such manipulativeness to a new level, starting out with three testimonials. These include Jodi Fenton, Jessica Ressel, and Kelsey Hill. It turns out that jli has done an capable analysis of the three testimonials in this movie. As a cancer surgeon and researcher, however, I feel have something to add of my own, particularly in terms of clinical cancer treatment. In particular, I like to view these three testimonials as the three strikes that put Dr. Burzynski out.

As a medical professional, the first thing I noticed about these medical reports is that they have the definite air of having been cherry-picked. Certainly the reports included represent a highly selected subset of these patients’ medical records, mainly just a series of radiology and pathology reports, and in one of them a key pathology report is missing. In the movie, little snippets of these reports, key parts of the text highlighted in yellow, are rapidly flashed onscreen, after which they disappear, all of which is designed to draw the viewer’s attention to what the filmmaker wants, as jli points out in the case of Jodi Fenton. In Ms. Fenton’s medical records two observations are most important to me. First, it is reported that there is no mass effect, compression of the ventricles, or midline shift, all of which imply that this mass was probably fairly slow growing. Second, a growth curve based on serial MRI tests is presented that is most curious. The pre-biopsy imaging suggests that the tumor is around 2 cm in diameter. However, the following table begins on 6/1/2000, which is two weeks after Fenton underwent a stereotactic biopsy of her lesion:


Notice something? The tumor’s maximum diameter is now 0.5 cm, which is less than one-quarter what was reported. Given that tumor volume is proportional to the cube of the radius, that means that the tumor volume two weeks after her biopsy was roughly 64-fold (or more) smaller than it was before the biopsy. What’s interesting is that then the residual tumor disappears within a month. It’s highly unusual for chemotherapy (and, make no mistake, antineoplastons are chemotherapy) to shrink a tumor that fast. This brings up an intriguing possibility, mainly that the bulk of the tumor was removed by the biopsy process. I’m not a neurosurgeon, but I’ve seen the same sort of thing happen occasionally in small breast cancers that undergo a core needle biopsy, especially using a large biopsy needle; so it’s not inconceivable to me that the same thing might happen in brain tumors. Whether such a thing is possible or not, it should also be noted that anaplastic astrocytomas can have a highly variable prognosis and growth rate, which means that Fenton’s prognosis might not have been as bad as portrayed in the movie.

So what happened here? It’s clear that this case was presented first because the film’s producers thought this was their strongest case, mainly because the patient hadn’t undergone any therapy before being treated with antineoplastons. So one of three things happened:

  1. The biopsy removed the cancer, and what was left behind was an inflammatory reaction.
  2. The biopsy removed much of the cancer, and antineoplastons worked on the rest
  3. Fenton is an outlier whose tumor regressed on its own

Strike one!

If Burzynski had real evidence that his therapy worked (i.e., clinical trial evidence), then he wouldn’t be resorting to anecdotes like this one, which doesn’t show conclusively that it was the antineoplastons that eliminated the tumor.

The second case was Jessica Ressel, who was diagnosed with a diffuse brainstem glioma in 1996. One thing that I noticed right away in perusing the records included with the film is that there is no pathology report. I found this rather curious, given that the pathology report was included in the last case. I also found the actual MRI view included in the report to be odd as well. See what I mean:


Do you see what bothers me? I’ll give you a hint: there shouldn’t be any yellow in this MRI scan. The authors obviously marked the area of abnormality with the same yellow marker that was used elsewhere. Trying to look under the yellow mark to see the most important parts of the scan, I don’t see anything “diffuse” about that glioma; it looks pretty well encapsulated. Unlike the definition of a diffuse brainstem glioma, it doesn’t take up anywhere near 50% of the brainstem diameter, although the yellow marking does conspire to make it look larger.

More importantly, looking at the tables tracking tumor volume, I see another problem, mainly that the volume of the enhancing lesion is all over the place, jumping up and down for several months. In fact, it takes the tumor over a year to disappear, and it doesn’t even start to shrink consistently until nearly nine months after antineoplaston treatment started. This sort of behavior is strongly suggestive to me that the treatment probably had little to do with the disappearance of the mass, as drugs that are active against a tumor generally result in measurable shrinkage a lot faster than that and the tumor actually increased in size for a while during antineoplaston therapy. Moreover, the changes in tumor size don’t appear to correlate very well to the changes in dosage. After all, if the tumor shrank significantly on the MRI of September 21 and Burzynski attributes that to doubling the dose of antineoplastons, then how does he explain the tumor size increasing significantly again on the November 11 scan? In any case, the behavior of this tumor makes me wonder about the diagnosis, which makes me wonder why the pathology report isn’t included, as it was for the other two testimonials. Could it be that there was no biopsy of this tumor? If that’s the case, then there are many reasons to doubt that this was ever a brainstem glioma in the first place, first, because its behavior was not consistent with one and, second, because brainstem tumors are heterogeneous and even highly suspicious lesions on MRI can be benign 13% of the time.

Strike two! Testimonial number two proves little or nothing.

If Burzynski had real evidence that his therapy worked (i.e., clinical trial evidence), then he wouldn’t be resorting to anecdotes like this one, which doesn’t show conclusively that it was the antineoplastons that eliminated the tumor.

The last patient is Kelsy Hill. Basically, at age 6 months, Hill was diagnosed with a baseball-sized tumor in her abdomen, which, according to the parents was in her kidneys, as well as in her liver and lungs. She was operated on, and a mass was removed, as described on this pathology report. What was initially curious to me about this particular testimonial is the question of why a surgeon would have operated if the baby already had liver and lung metastases at the time of diagnosis. The only reason to operate in the presence of lung metastases that I could think of would be if the surgeon thought he was going after a neuroblastoma, which is not an unreasonable assumption, particularly if the adrenal cortical carcinoma was nonfunctioning. Neuroblastoma is a childhood tumor that presents as a rapidly growing abdominal mass, but even when there are metastases it is often still potentially curable. It’s also the most common cancer in infancy. Consequently, an infant presenting with a large abdominal mass and metastases is often considered to have neuroblastoma until proven otherwise, although the presence of lung metastases is more consistent with an adrenal cortical carcinoma. Finally, there is the issue of whether the child had an adrenal cortical carcinoma or adenoma. The former is malignant; the latter is benign, and it’s not always easy to differentiate the two. The parts of the pathology report with special stains that can help differentiate between the two are missing.

More puzzling is, again, the behavior of the multiple liver and lung masses noted in the supplemental data. First, the raw data presented don’t match the parents’ description in that there are no liver masses noted until 2/22/2006, which is nearly six months after the initial surgery. It’s also inconsistent with the narration of the movie:

Upon the removal of Kelsey’s left kidney and left adrenal gland, her diagnosis was confirmed at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and again at M.D. Anderson cancer center. Where, a month later, M.D. Anderson also confirmed that Kelsey’s cancer had spread to her lungs. After desperately researching Kelsey’s situation, her family decided to decline all chemotherapy treatments offered my M.D. Anderson, and instead, enroll Kelsey into one of Dr. Burzynski’s clinical trials. By this time, Kelsey’s cancer had also spread into her liver.

Again, Kelsy’s surgery was in September 2005; no evidence of liver metastases appears to have been noted until February 2006. When did she start the antineoplaston therapy? Was it shortly after surgery? If that’s the case, then her liver lesions developed and her lung lesions grew while she was on the antineoplaston therapy. Or did she not start antineoplastons until the appearance of liver lesions in February? If that’s the case, then why did her doctors leave her untreated for five months while her lung masses increased in size? No, what seems most likely is that antineoplaston treatment began soon after surgery, Kelsy’s tumors grew for several months after that, and new liver lesions appeared while she was on therapy. Of course, it’s not even clear if these lesions were metastases because there’s no evidence that Burzynski or Kelsy’s other doctors ever biopsied any of them. Again, there are no pathology reports of core needle biopsies of the suspected metastases.

Strike Three! Burzynski’s out!

If you can’t keep your pledge about the evidence, hit ’em with conspiracies and bad science!

Merola’s pledge that the the opening 30 minutes of the movie would “thoroughly establish” that Burzynski has discovered the genetic mechanism that can cure most cancers was clearly not kept. These three testimonials do not constitute convincing evidence that antineoplastons can cure cancer. Given that they are almost certainly the absolute best cases that Burzynski could come up with, I’m forced to wonder what the denominator was. How many patients were treated with antineoplastons and didn’t exhibit results even this good? Thousands upon thousands. Meanwhile, interspersed throughout these testimonials are comparisons of Burzynski’s results to results of standard therapy that are deceptive in the extreme, given that small, unrandomized groups subject to selection bias are not comparable to larger clinical trials of standard-of-care treatments. Merola also can’t resist using all sorts of scary graphics when discussing the chemotherapy drugs used as standard of care, referring to doxorubicin as the “red death” and taking care to point out that mitotane was derived from an insecticide. One thing’s for sure, Eric Merola isn’t subtle. He hits you over the head with his pro-Burzynski anti-pharma message over and over and over again. It must be that advertising background again.

The rest of the movie can be dispensed with rather quickly, as it’s basically one big conspiracy theory, in which the NCI, the Texas Medical Board, the FDA, and, of course, big pharma (as represented by PhRMA all persecute poor, poor Dr. Burzynski because, if you believe the Eric Merola, (1) Burzynski has cured cancer and is a threat to big pharma and its chemotherapy monopoly; (2) Burzynski is a threat to the fees big pharma pays to the FDA to oversee clinical trials; (3) the NCI can’t abide the competition. This whole section of the movie is introduced thusly by a narrator with an exceedingly creepy voice, complete with ominous-sounding background music playing:

The pharmaceutical industry is arguably the most profitable industry on our planet, with its profits being triple that of all of the Fortune 500 companies. Rising profits result in rising stock prices, the only way this industry can sustain this profitable momentum is by continuing to introduce new patented drugs. And since the pharmaceutical industry relies on the FDA as it’s gatekeeper to introduce these new drugs, it’s in their best interest to insure the FDA remains as compliant as possible. And since the FDA is also an office of the United States government, it’s in the government’s best interest to preserve one of it’s most powerful industries. The former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, has been very outspoken with the idea that it’s time to take the Food and Drug Administration back from the drug companies.

Repeat variations of this sort of passage over and over and over again interspersed with archival footage of various legal proceedings against Burzynski and occasional observations by Drs. Whitaker and Burzynski whining about how they are being persecuted, and you’ll get an idea of what the last hour of the movie is like. It was painful to sit through because it was so blatant and, quite frankly, not very well produced–and there was that annoying robot-like narration describing the proceedings at every point. Particularly vile was the excessive use of the numerous testimonials of crying patients and parents telling various bodies of lawmakers or the Texas Medical Board that they’ll die if Dr. Burzynski is convicted or has his license revoked. The paranoid conspiracy aura that surrounds Burzynski The Movie is palpable and becomes quite oppressive by the end of the movie. Pharma, the NCI, the FDA, the Texas Medical Board, and every medical authority are all against Burzynski, and he is the heroic doctor battling against all odds to bring his cure for cancer to all. Yes, it’s just that nauseatingly blatant. At every point, antineoplastons are presented as nontoxic and effective, when they are neither. In fact, they can be quite toxic.

In fact, it should be emphasized that, despite all the claims that they are somehow “natural,” antineoplastons are chemotherapy, as much as Drs. Whitaker and Burzynski try to portray them as “targeted.” In fact, they’re no longer even isolated from urine but synthesized and purified in Burzynski’s laboratory, something that would normally be anathema to the “natural remedies” crowd. Indeed, early in the movie, there’s a hilarious part where Burzynski, outraged at the criticism he received for using something extracted from urine, points out that hormone replacement therapy in the form of Premarin is isolated from horse urine. So obviously Burzynski’s antineoplastons are just like Premarin, and doctors don’t heap such contempt on that drug! The difference, of course, is that no one doubts that the estrogens and progesterone actually work; it’s just that the question of an elevated risk of breast cancer has led to Premarin’s having fallen out of favor.

One part of the movie that truly insults the intelligence of anyone with a modicum of knowledge about drug therapy occurs near the beginning of the movie. It’s a part that, as a cancer surgeon who is interested in targeted therapies for breast cancer, I found particularly idiotic. First, there is a screen with this caption:

Antineoplastons target the specific genes that allow cancer to grow and flourish.

No evidence is presented to demonstrate this, of course, but there are nifty (and very science-y) images of DNA double helices flying towards the viewer, along with the chemical structures of various targeted drugs. A little later we see:

There are currently over 25 FDA-approved gene-targeted cancer drugs on the market today.

Many of them can only target single genes.

All of which is true but irrelevant if Burzynski is trying to sell antineoplastons as targeted therapy. Now here’s the kicker:

Antineoplastons work on close to one hundred different genes.

You know what you call a drug that works on “close to 100 genes”? I don’t know either, but you don’t call it a “targeted” therapy unless all those genes are genes affected by the single target being inhibited; i.e., are downstream targets of the gene targeted by antineoplastons. In other words, Burzynski is trying to have it both ways. He’s administering chemotherapy to patients on clinical trials and charging them for the privilege, but he’s trying to represent his treatment as being somehow “targeted.” That’s why I say: Repeat after me. Antineoplastons are chemotherapy. Worse, they’re chemotherapy that almost certainly doesn’t work against cancer. At best, looking at the evidence, I conclude that they might have very minimal anticancer activity, and even that’s doubtful.

The real problem with cancer research

Writer/producer Eric Merola uses Burzynski The Movie as a forum to pound on what he perceives as the shortcomings of the current regulatory system overseeing drugs. If anything, he’s right that our drug regulatory system has severe shortcomings, but not for the reasons he thinks. Certainly it’s not because it’s trying to shut Burzynski down. Just the opposite. The huge flaw in our drug regulatory system is that, after over 30 years, it has failed to determine once and for all whether or not antineoplastons have any anticancer activity, despite allowing Dr. Burzynski to treat thousands of patients with them while driving the dialogue about whether antineoplastons work or not and portraying himself as a persecuted “brave maverick doctor.” More disturbing from an ethics standpoint, somehow, Burzynski is still able to enroll patients on clinical trials, despite having failed to show compelling preclinical evidence of efficacy; worse, he charges them huge sums of money for the “privilege” of being on one of his clinical trials, something that is generally considered highly unethical, to the point of wondering how any Institutional Review Board could possibly approve such studies, particularly given that the FDA has warned Burzynski about how his IRB fails to protect human research subjects. Unfortunately, the Texas Medical Board failed to shut him down in the 1990s. It’s apparently gearing up again to try to do so in early 2012. One can only hope that this time it’s more successful.

In the end, Burzynski The Movie is perhaps the most appropriate vehicle for propagandizing Dr. Burzynski. Like Burzynski, it’s unsubtle, low rent in the extreme, and lacking in anything resembling scientific evidence. Unfortunately, desperate cancer patients with terminal disease, even ones who would normally be more skeptical, can be blinded to the utter lack of evidence to support antineoplaston therapy because Dr. Burzynski gives them hope. Unfortunately, it’s a false hope that has a high likelihood of draining their bank accounts to maintain Dr. Burzynski’s empire of pseudoscience before they die.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

190 replies on “Burzynski The Movie: Is Stanislaw Burzynski a pioneering cancer researcher or a quack?”

I only could watch part of the movie before stopping it.

I honestly felt that I wanted to headdesk myself from all the sheer stupidity from that video.

I am going to make a good faith effort watch the whole thing, but I am not usually fond of exposing myself to things like this for a long time. It makes me physically uncomfortable when I watch someone and they’re saying things that they should just know are wrong, given what they claim they know. Especially knowing that some set of people are going to die because they’re lied to.


Of course, Orac can fix that.

Now that’s what I like to hear from a surgeon.

(or a plumber, mechanic, etc . . . but never, ever a politician)

I just read out those costs to my flatmate (who is sympathetic to some forms of woo – I’ve learnt which ones to keep quiet on, but we do at least agree on vaccinations, mostly cause she’s worked in child care). Her response – ‘and he’s been in trials for how long? Can he be arrested?’.

A few days ago, I did a Google search on Burzynski; most of the top results were about the movie and the claims of persecution. I’ve just repeated the search and the top results are all blogposts like this one; the pro-Burzynski stuff doesn’t appear at all on the first page of results.
Orac & his fellow bloggers may well have saved a cancer patient’s life with their efforts.

This reminds me of the AIDS Denialist movie a couple of years ago, House of Numbers. In that “film” the director interviewed many well known AIDS Researchers and doctors, Luc Montagnier among them. The director, however, failed to disclose the true premise of the movie and proceeded to edit their responses to fit his agenda. As a matter of fact, most of those interviewed wrote a letter explicitly stating the deception and how their responses were edited inappropriately.

Speaking of things that are (or should be) anathema to the “natural remedies” crowd, this passage from Orac’s article struck me:

“Looking at the table, I noticed immediately that Dr. Burzynski says nothing about survival rates, only “objective response rates,” which are not defined in a meaningful way.”

The woo crowd often, when denying that mainstream therapy cures any cancer, contemptuously dismisses contrary evidence by claiming that it only refers to five-year survival rates. You would think that they’d go full throttle after Burzynski’s far more nebulous and less significant “objective response rate” claims.

But no. Burzynski is not mainstream and supporting him is a way to stick it to the Man. What happens to his patients is secondary.

There are some very important points about Burzynski’s clinic that people may be missing.

It’s true that Burzynski’s USP – antineoplastons – appears to be unsupported by the evidence.

However, it seems to be a smokescreen for what he’s really up to, which is throwing a cocktail of chemo and targeted drugs (presumably the -abs and -ibs) at patients, based on the principles of stratified medicine – which would explain some of his success stories:

The problem is that according to the Texas Medical Board complaint,he’s not consenting people properly, he’s using drugs off-label without properly consenting or informing patients, and he’s charging them through the nose for the privilege.

This is what the Texas Medical Board is trying to get him struck off for, rather than the antineoplaston quackery:

So there’s quite a lot of interesting layers to this story. On the one hand, many of his supporters are fans of alternative medicine, and believe in the antineoplastons – they don’t even realise he’s giving chemotherapy to his patients (which would certainly explain some of his success stories).

On the other, he could (if one was feeling generous) be said to be streets ahead of everyone in terms of personalised medicine – although he’s going about it what would be considered by most doctors to be an extremely unethical and scientifically dubious way and failing to properly publish his results.

Diregarding the antineoplastons, he’s just throwing (very expensive) chemo at people and seeing what sticks.

Recently I’ve noticed that movie-making is becoming very popular in Woo-topia. I think I know why that is.

Manipulation can be achieved by both visual and verbal means…and they can use *music*- ominous dark themes when they talk about Pharma lend so much more power to their message! It’s also a way to keep people engaged for long periods of time. Arrgh.

The anti-vaccinators and HIV/AIDS denialists ( mentioned by Jack) have used this method of propaganda and have “premiered” their Meisterwerks in large cities, often followed by a “lecture” or a Q&A( e.g. anti-vax @ NYC’s IFC with Kuo Habakus and Holland). I am sickeningly familar with this scenario courtesy of Gary Null who has been creating “documentaries” for years: anti-vax, HIV/AIDS denial, anti-SBM, “healthy living”, “cures”,and increasingly, on political and economic topics ( anti- nuclear power, more shlock coming on Wall St ). Like our esteemed host Orac, I do not pay to watch woo so I probably have spared myself a great deal of suffering. However I have seen enough to know why this is so attractive to woo-meisters.

There are added benefits to films: they can be sold via websites, featured on You Tube, and circulated amongst the faithful via social media. And this is being done: if you peruse sites like NaturalNews or the ProgressiveRadioNetwork, you’ll find hook-ups to social media and venues like i-tunes where you might purchase the nonsense. Emotional testimonies can combat mild criticism by the un-informed: illustrating your prevarication can make it appear more *real*. Editors can do wonders: trust me, my cousin does this for a living.

-on a lighter note: our friend Jake @ AoA, after “taking on” many fine SB adults( and even arguing with me!) has done the un-thinkable: he’s written to Anderson Cooper.

Withdrawal by patients described by Burzynski as having responded is unusual in the practice of medicine.

Could someone clue me in as to what that means?

A few days ago, I did a Google search on Burzynski; most of the top results were about the movie and the claims of persecution. I’ve just repeated the search and the top results are all blogposts like this one; the pro-Burzynski stuff doesn’t appear at all on the first page of results.
Orac & his fellow bloggers may well have saved a cancer patient’s life with their efforts.

Thank you, Orac.
I’m always flabbergasted by the “big pharma doesn’t want cures” people — if any pharmaceutical company had a decent chance at a patent for a cure for any form of cancer, they would love it. The amount of money they would make would be staggering. If they thought Burzynski’s treatment worked, they’d’ve come up with something similar by now (or bought him out), and everyone who could would be selling everything they had to get it. Even the ultra-rich die from cancer (just ask Steve Jobs — except you can’t, since he tried the “natural approach” for too long).
Meanwhile, the “cure everything naturally” enthusiasts ignore that if there were effective and available easy natural cures we’d all have been using them for centuries, undermining “big pharma” before it began.

@ kat: The two patients mentioned in the pending Texas Medical Board complaint against Burzynski had 6 drugs (patient A) and 1 drug (Patient B) prescribed for them.

All well and good but none of the drugs prescribed for these two patients has FDA approval for use in the particular type of cancers (metastatic breast cancer-Patient A, esthesioneuroblastoma-Patient B), that these patients were diagnosed with. Furthermore, none of the drugs have received “off-label” FDA approval for these cancers.

He literally sold these drugs to the patients…the drugs were purchased through the pharmacy that the doctor owned.

He didn’t notify patient B that her cancer was progressing as verified by the three MRIs done during eleven months of treatment. I suppose as long as patient B was purchasing the drug from his pharmacy and was still financially able to do so, took precedence over informing the patient about her disease progression.

BTW, according to the Texas Medical Board licensing division, neither Gregory or Stanislaw Bruzynski lists any hospital affiliations.

Careful Orac, you might get a threatening email from Marc now.

I tried watching this too….it’s just…poor.


Could someone clue me in as to what that means?

I think he means that although Burzynski claims these patients responded, they nevertheless withdrew from the trial. If they were responding, why did they withdraw? And if they withdrew, why is he reporting their results at all? Early withdrawal from a study is usually a disqualification for using the results, since they are incomplete and therefore cannot be compared to other results.

Exactly – that’s why what he’s up to is as fishy as a boatload of herring, even discounting the antineoplaston stuff. I think the antineoplaston trials are a smokescreen (intentional or otherwise) to cover up what is just a presumably highly profitable operation selling people drugs they may not benefit from – that’s certainly what’s implied by my reading of the allegations of the Texas Medical Board.

Yesterday when examining links in the discussion I actually read

Luna Petegine’s diary .

The side effects this little girl has suffered from treatment, plus the latest (her tumor is much larger and the good doctor has assured the parents it is “swelling up with toxins before being dissolved, and this is normal”) and the fact that there are no diary entries for about ten days now really has me worried for her.

She developed symptoms remarkably like diabetes insipidus as a side effect from his treatment. I’m guessing that was her body trying to get rid of toxic overload? I feel so terrible for the patients – they have been completely sold on this man as the very last possible hope for their daughter. 🙁

Checking the website of the charity raising money to send a British child to the Burzynski clinic further illustrates the point about the impotence of the regulatory agencies.
To summarize – there are differing views and he is approved by the FDA so there must be something in it. I’m not sure I would use approved to mean “in spite of the complete lack of evidence to support his approach they haven’t yet been able to stop him fleecing the vulnerable and desperate”.
The one tiny positive – if they can be persuaded that the clinic is quack medicine money not spent on pointless treatments will go to (hopefully) legitimate research into the treatment of childhood brain cancer.

From the website

“Family statement regarding Billie’s treatment

The fundraising team and Billie’s family are aware of sceptical views about treatment at the Burzynski Clinic in Texas being expressed on the internet and feel it is important to make a brief statement.

Right from the start we have been well aware of the widely differing views about this treatment. Pioneering treatment inevitably attracts controversial views. The family spent a great deal of time exploring the options available when it became clear that no further conventional treatment for Billie was available in the UK. The costs are high but no more so than other medical treatment in America.

We know there are no guarantees with any experimental treatment but were not prepared to sit back and do nothing while there was a small chance this treatment could improve her chances of survival. The family has been in contact with other families whose children have been helped by this treatment. The clinic is currently conducting clinical trials approved by the FDA, the Government agency responsible for approving all medical treatments in the USA.

We are tremendously grateful for the overwhelming support we have received. Soon after Billie was diagnosed a Trust Fund was set up in her name. One of the stipulations of the Trust is that any funds not required for her treatment will be spent on research into the treatment of child brain cancer in the UK in the hope that there may be better help for children like Billie in the future.”

the antineoplaston trials are a smokescreen

Also a key part of the Burzynski family brand as Maverick Medical Outsider, and the whole foundation of his Phase-II-clinical-trials business model.
— Burzynski’s Christ-like status in the alt-med network (google ‘burzynski + mercola’ for instance) rests on antineoplastons, the wonder cure for all cancer that the evil medical mainstream is keeping from you.
— All his sockpuppeted promotional websites featuring sick children who need your donations (or grateful patients who received your donations) emphasise his use of the body’s own natural cancer-fighting chemicals instead of evil tissue-burning chemotherapy.

After all these decades he’s not going to come out and openly admit that antineoplastons do nothing except make the recipient sick and that his clinic is piggybacking on the inventiveness of other companies’ pharmaceutical research.

Also a key part of the Burzynski family brand as Maverick Medical Outsider, and the whole foundation of his Phase-II-clinical-trials business model.

Maybe suggested by Google’s—where everything is in “beta”, now and forever?

“he’s written to Anderson Cooper.”

“He waited ten months?”

I give Boy Wonder Ace Reporter credit for finally making the time during his very busy schedule…to write to CNN about Andersen Cooper. After all he has been busy with event planning (Andy’s “presentation” at Brandeis), stalking Fiona Godlee and “representing” George Washington University at a public meeting where Godlee spoke. Then there was the planning of his trip with his parents Nicole and Giff to attend a fundraiser in Texas in support of Autism Trust-USA where Carmel Wakefield serves on the Executive Committee on the Board of Directors.

Do you know how long it took him to do the intensive investigation to connect the dots between the sixty degrees of separation that exist between Anderson Cooper and Big Pharma? He really does deserve credit for all these activities and for the advancement of yellow journalism.

Once you have taken the time to watch the movie, please do not forget to log in to IMBD (Internet Movie Database) to rate and comment on the doctors movie… if the current reviews are to be believed, this man is a saint and the movie deserves an oscar.

BTW, according to the Texas Medical Board licensing division, neither Gregory or Stanislaw Bruzynski lists any hospital affiliations.

What I really wonder about: What does the TMB say about all this? Are they actually aware what is going on there?

Jake is a casualty: a product of a venom-dripping conspiratory-based world-view. I read and listen to hate-drenched screeds produced by the usual perpetrators and wonder,”How many young or impressible minds are getting warped today?” All of which is a shame.

About Jake in particular: I saw it coming. Acting out against any person not in agreement with his own highly idiosyncratic perspective is not a stable manner of functioning.

I was fortunate enough to study at two incredible grad schools ( “here and there” ) where amazing opportunities seemed to greet me nearly every day- all of these brilliant and wonderful students, profs, mentors who actually liked and encouraged me. Thus I try to encourage students in gratitude.

Jake is throwing away the chance to become science-based in a respectable profession that could help people. I don’t know how his anti-vax position will sit with his profs- how he can perseverate as he does in that, of all, fields. Pseudo-science harms people by providing useless or dangerous treatments and by rotting minds: filling them with ridiculous and meaningless hypotheses that are designed and promulgated solely to feed egos and purses.

Hey Orac, long time listener, first time caller here 🙂

Looks like this thing has hit slashdot now, (a pretty big tech site for those that don’t know).

Though it saddens me that so many folks there immediately jump to his defence, or bought into the movie propaganda. There was a time when technical/scientific learning and debate dominated that site, it’s gone rapidly downhill in recent years though.

Anyway, thought you might like to know, looks like this recent episode has really caught people’s attention.

Jake? Yellow journalism? The fake info and attention- grabbing headlines would relate more to Brian Deer. Although I would categorize Deer more as egomaniacal and dishonest/unethical.

@ Evilcyber: The information that neither of the doctors Burzynski has a hospital affiliation, was supplied by them in their doctor profile on the Texas Medical Board.

Information that was actually verified by the TMB for Stanislaw Bruzynski at the time of licensure in Texas 38 years ago is that he was born in Poland in 1943, graduated from the Medical Academy, Lublin Poland in 1967 and there is no information provided about Graduate Medical Education (residency) in the U.S. or Canada.

Information that was verified by the TMB for Gregory Bruzynski at the time of his licensure is that he was born in 1979, attended medical school in Krakow Poland, graduated May 2007. He had a three year residency June, 2007-June 2010 at University Texas-Southwestern, Austin Texas and was first licensed January 2011.

I also checked out the “AMA Doctor Finder” website and both are members of the AMA.

Fortunately, I haven’t ever undergone treatment for cancer but I have friends who have undergone extensive treatment for various types of cancer. Some have even required immediate hospital care for blood transfusions and treatment of major infections. What do these two doctors do when their patients run into “problems” associated with the major drugs that they are prescribing? How can they sleep at night knowing that their patients have to call a taxicab to pick them up at their hotels and end up in an emergency room…and not have their “oncologist” available…because they do not have hospital affiliations?

@ Andy: And, I viewed the website that was linked at the movie Facebook page.

A young woman from Ireland is appealing for funds for expenses and the costs of treatment for a brain tumor at the Bruzynski Clinic. These guys are raking in the money from patients who are desperately trying to survive. So sad.

Oh look! The “movie” even has its own Facebook page

The November 6-20 exchange in which the value of the penny stock is marveled at is particularly weird. (Oh, look, it also lost a third of its value from Monday to Tuesday. For the second time in the space of a week. It’s a curious chart.)

“Meanwhile, the “cure everything naturally” enthusiasts ignore that if there were effective and available easy natural cures we’d all have been using them for centuries, undermining “big pharma” before it began.”

Um, we did use natural cures for centuries and centuries and centuries. It’s called History. Some were based on scientific method and some not. But ask yourself why people would rather take a pill in order to extend their unhealthy lifestyle and you will realize your short sighted thinking. It’s about a balance. You don’t have to be all Big Pharma vs. natural cures, to blindly pick one shows your ignorant insolence, not educated or curious in the least.
As usual rotten apples and arguments spoil the bunch.

@32: I’ve studied history. For centuries, an abscessed tooth could be fatal. Now, it isn’t.

Solomon Grundy:

But ask yourself why people would rather take a pill in order to extend their unhealthy lifestyle and you will realize your short sighted thinking.

So exactly what “healthy” lifestyle works for cystic fibrosis, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, type 1 diabetes, bacterial infections like Scarlet Fever (it is a strep infection), etc.? How well did John Adams’ daughter fare with her breast cancer? Oh, and what about Ada Lovelace and her cancer?

Do tell us why our short sighted thinking has doubled life expectancy in the last two hundred years (link to video).

As usual rotten apples and arguments spoil the bunch.

And you have all the answers, don’t you. Try providing some actual scientific citations next time if you wish to be taken seriously.

(Now, let’s say one wanted a conspiracy theory. BYZR was at a sharp YTD low on June 8-10. Mercola’s article on the movie has a dateline of June 11. On June 15, BYZR hit a YTD high. Two days later, it had plummeted to… just about its YTD average. Somebody seems to have made a quick buck. Twice.)

@ Gray Falcon…Remember that old English nursery rhyme?

Solomon Grundy,
Born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday:
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy.

So, thousands of people have benefited from Burzinskis’ “trials”, yet he publishes (only) three anecdotes in the film? I’ll raise that. Can’t remember many details because it’s over 20 years ago. It’s still an anecdote!

Middle age/elderly man, laparotomy over 10 years previously where adenocarcinoma pancreas biopsied and confirmed, presented for closure of incisional hernia from the laparotomy. No treatment given for the adenocarcinoma (the nasty form, the one that Steve Jobs didn’t have). No evidence of spread or metastases. We recut and stained the original specimen and confirmed the original diagnosis, then closed the hernia without opening his peritoneum.

Some people seem to recover from cancers even without modern treatment.

Even without treatment, whether or not the chemotherapy that Burzinski prescribes, there will be a small number of people that appear to eliminate a cancer without any additional treatment. I consider that the three anecdotes that start the film (no, I couldn’t finish) are likely to be some of the rare survivors that occur even without intervention.

Where are the published papers that would support the film?

@ Narad: You should try keying in:

Investor’s Hub BZYR

The comments from the last few days are extraordinary. It seems as though this public relations disaster has affected the stock. Things are not looking well for Marc Stephens for his continued employment as a “representative” of the Burzynskis

Wow, so, if the film faked Jodi Fenton’s cancer diagnosis, that means that Bristol Myers Squibb, Lance Armstrong, and CNN were all fooled when they featured Jodi as a brain cancer survivor in the “Tour Of Hope” race as well as the cover of USA Today – the conspiracy only gets deeper! Even the patients are pretending to have cancer – and then they decide not to get chemo and then pretend to be treated by this Burzynski guy!


Holy cow! Guess what else I found! The other patient Orac talks about here, the one that had the fake MRI who never really had a brainstem glioma? This little girl and her family have been living this conspiracy since she was a little girl!

There is news footage from 1996 with this girl in Washington DC pretending to have a brain tumor!


She and her family even managed to fool all of their local news networks into thinking she was sick – when in reality – she was faking it – and her whole family was faking the entire thing!


Dear OracIsGod, what changed in the scientific world that videos are considered actual peer reviewed evidence? Especially since they are all sourced through a YouTube site called “BurzynskiMovie”?

Are you really that stupid?

It’s worse than we think – even the National Cancer Institute has been fooled! They have actually published that in multiple Phase 2 clinical trials, this “urine” stuff Burzynski uses has actually CURED people!

We have to expose this conspiracy! If the National Cancer Institute can be fooled into thinking people have been cured by urine, imagine what will happen! (I looked it up, according the their website’s glossary of terms, “complete response” means “cured”????)


How can the National Cancer institute fall for this ‘phesudo-science”?

Um, we did use natural cures for centuries and centuries and centuries. It’s called History. Some were based on scientific method and some not. But ask yourself why people would rather take a pill in order to extend their unhealthy lifestyle and you will realize your short sighted thinking. It’s about a balance. You don’t have to be all Big Pharma vs. natural cures, to blindly pick one shows your ignorant insolence, not educated or curious in the least.

Oh, please, not this strawman again. It’s not about being based on scientific method. It’s about whether treatment works or not. Scientific method is often used just to verify whether treatment really works or just it seems that it works (people are good and self-deception). Doesn’t matter if it was synthesised in some Big Pharma lab or invented by some Egyptian guy three thousands years ago.

Besides, I’m yet to meet physician who wouldn’t hassle me about healthy diet, exercising, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking etc.

Bottom line – there is no Big Pharma vs. natural cures issue. If it works, it can be proven to work. If it can’t be proven to work, it doesn’t work.

The table is dated 2007, and in thirty years there should be many more data points. It is a quarter to midnight on the American west coast. It turns out that Mr. Stephens lives in California (and for those illiterate in geography, it is on the American west coast).

It seems that Mr. Stephens has a sock puppet that does not know he is no longer being paid as Burzynski’s attack public relations flunky. Especially one who has not read Orac’s most recent article.

OracIsGod @?

So, my teenager has survived astrocytoma, relying only on modern medicine.

Burzinski had nothing to do with it.

What does Burzinski add to modern medicine? What proof does he have? Where is the proof? Where has he published?

“Trials” mean nothing until the results are available for others to evaluate.

Once he has published the results of his “trials”, the rest of the world can evaluate their worth.

we did use natural cures for centuries and centuries and centuries. It’s called History

History is a natural cure? I know some historians have a high regard for their discipline but there’s no need to encourage them.

Yes, Burzynski and antineoplaston therapy is controversial. All I can say is that after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 3/94, I underwent 3 years of conventional therapies- 5 courses of VAD, 2 of cytoxan and a pbsct. By 9/97 I had relapsed twice and was told “nothing more can be done for you.”

I underwent ANP therapy from 11/97-4/99- monthly MRI’s mandated by the FDA showed my lesions shrink and disappear. I have been in complete remission since ANP therapy.

For more info go to

I am happy to answer any and all questions- David Emerson

I’m glad to see such a thorough takedown of this tripe. Our local YMCA hosted a ‘natural healing film series’ last month which included a double feature of ‘Burzynski’ and ‘The Gerson Miracle.’ I sent them an e-mail letting them know they were promoting BS, and they replied that they take no position on the accuracy of the information they present. Which makes me wonder if they’d be equally agreeable to a lecture series on the exercise programs of leprechauns.

@David Emerson

See, that’s the problem – with all due respect, it doesn’t matter whether ANP helped you (or it looks like it helped you). That’s why we use scientific method – to determine whether ANP is more efficient than other regimens. Burzynski claim to have treated over thousand of patients. If ANP really works as claimed then there should be literally hundreds of well-documented cases like yours. And there should be absolutely no problem with publishing these results and making ANP therapy available worldwide and saving thousands of lives.

So, why it isn’t available in every oncology ward all over the world? There are countries where medical regulations are much more lax than in US. It would be so easy to save thousands, no, millions of lives just by publishing one or two good articles. Why Burzynski is not doing that?

I agree 100% with Patricia’s point about Pharmaceutical companies buying out a successful treatment or developing their own similar one. I also can’t believe the never ending conspiracy theory that Big Pharma is out to get all of these “misunderstood geniuses”. Rather than spreading “lies” and discrediting those who have developed their so called miracle cures wouldn’t it make more sense for these shadowy organizations to simply make the dissenters disappear? Isn’t that what shadowy conspiracy groups do? I have probably said too much already and if you never hear from me again I’m probably either dead or locked away somewhere we’ve never even heard of. All hail our mighty Pharma overlords.

What part of ‘anecdotes are not proof’ do some people not get? If you took a big enough sample of cancer patients (say, like 30 years worth of them) and treated them with pixie dust, some of them would go into remission and survive. That doesn’t mean that pixie dust cures cancer. That’s why, with all due respect to patients who have been ‘cured’ by Burzynski, we need to evaluate this therapy with objective standards and proper statistical methods. Short of that, it’s far too easy to convince ourselves that we see a signal where there’s only noise.
And the fact is, by that standard, antineoplastons are about as useful as pixie dust.

Well, Rory, it seems Mr. Emerson does not understand the concept that the plural of anecdote is not data.

Mr. Emerson, perhaps you can tell us why we should believe cherry picked anecdotes.

I’ve been having severe flu symptoms for about a week now. Yesterday, I started smoking Pall Malls instead of Marlboros (there was a sale). Today, my flu symptoms are much better.

So, to everyone dealing with the flu: smoke Pall Mall! It worked for me, it will work for you!

(Thank you Mr. Emerson, for pointing out how medicine and science works!)

If you took a big enough sample of cancer patients (say, like 30 years worth of them) and treated them with pixie dust, some of them would go into remission and survive

It would, however, drive the world’s population of pixies to the brink of extinction. (Makes as much sense as Mr. Emerson’s comments)

Some anecdotes for Mr. Emerson.

ASt first glance, Mr. Emerson’s story seems miraculous, since multiple myeloma is generally regarded as an incurable malignancy with a relatively short survival period. However, there are about 90 anecdotes of long-term survival of multiple myeloma at the above link. Interestingly, almost every patient was treated by standard medical means. Only one credits antineoplastons for his survival – Mr. Emerson.

A doctor that I know told me an anecdote from his residency:

They had a patient with terminal cancer (he told me what kind but I’ve forgotten). The patient needed some palliative surgery and as part of that, he got a blood transfusion. His cancer promptly went into complete remission. They knew the various treatments couldn’t have that effect so, by process of elimination, it must have been the blood transfusion. As he put it, “we practically exsanguinated the donor”, trying to identify what was in his blood that caused this, or at least to use his blood to cure others, but they never found anything or cured any other cancer with it, and they had to conclude that it was something about that particular donor and that particular cancer. Or maybe it was just coincidence.

So you see, David Emerson, even if the treatment worked for you, that’s only an anecdote and we can’t conclude from that that it will work for anyone else, any more than we can conclude that blood transfusions cure cancer.

“The table is dated 2007, and in thirty years there should be many more data points.”

I know! But since chemo & radiation was invented in the early 1900’s and all the data from 2007 on up until today also has plenty of data, only the data is far less effective than what Burzynski had in 2007 – maybe they are all in this together: Burzynski, NCI, and those chemotherapy scientists?!

I agree! anything from 2007 and before is meaningless in a National Cancer Institute table! so I guess we all need to start from scratch!

Yeah David, don’t you see? ALL cancer cures are all Anecdotal! All of them!This is why the war on cancer has been a failure – it’s because each and every person who has ever been cured – none of them were cured using the scientific method – they were all “spontaneous remissions” and “anecdotal” – so all cancer survivors were the work of “magic”and cured them – but you see, that’s also anecdotal. Chemo, radiation, surgery, antineplastons – all anecdotal, it’s finally coming clear to us!

Anyone as confused as me?

Narad beat me to it. Look Burzynski’s lackey, the proper way to conduct trials is to:
1.) Not charge patients for them.
2.) Adhere to the scientific method and in Burzynski’s case, use an RCT.
3..) Publish your findings, even if negative.

Burzynski has done none. So screed away crazy cakes; the moon is always listening.

What the offensively named poster fails to grasp is that there is, in fact, a difference between anecdotes and results of properly-run trials. If Mr. Emerson had been part of a clinical trial that was written up and reported in a peer-reviewed publication, with sufficient detail that other researchers could (a) quantify how many successes like Mr. Emerson there actually were out of what population was treated and (b) follow the protocol and use it on other patients in independent tests, then Mr. Emerson’s story would not be a mere anecdote.

But we don’t know if Mr. Emerson was one survivor out of a thousand treated, or if half of those treated survived and he was one of them. Also, we don’t know what treatment he received — did he receive ordinary chemotherapy drugs? Without all these details, yes, his anecdote is an anecdote just as mine is. But not all reports of cancer survival are anecdotes.

Check out the scam of partnering with the FDA using anecdotal data to get permission for Randomized trials! […]
Anyone as confused as me?

I am confused by the invocation of “partnering with the FDA”, which is not mentioned anywhere in the page to which Oracisgod refers us.

A grad student has actually obtained a copy of one of the more recent papers, and it is just a review. She says:

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.

Oh no! The conspiracy continues! It seems the FDA has allowed anecdotal cancer cures to give this guy Phase 3 clinical trials! Oh no! It seems he wasn’t using urine after all! Maybe it’a magical space urine? Anecdotal magical space urine no less! oh no!

See the latest press release in the massive space urine conspiracy (that involves space urine and third counting grenades of urindom):


Yawn… Hey, silly ‘nym, did you see this? Or even the link I posted almost an hour before you underwhelmed us with something we already knew about?

LW says: “What the offensively named poster fails to grasp is that there is, in fact, a difference between anecdotes and results of properly-run trials. If Mr. Emerson had been part of a clinical trial that was written up and reported in a peer-reviewed publication, with sufficient detail that other researchers could (a) quantify how many successes like Mr. Emerson there actually were out of what population was treated and (b) follow the protocol and use it on other patients in independent tests, then Mr. Emerson’s story would not be a mere anecdote.”

But we know that David was cured in a Phase 2 clinical trial – but don’t you see that in Orac world, and he’s god of course by way, Phase 2 clinical trials are fantasy land trials, and are also anecdotal. So, any phase 2 trial ever conducted in the history of medicine, is “anecdotal” and “fantasyland” and they might all have also used the very same Magic space urine as this burzynski guy uses and david was cured of.

Don’t you see? Phase 2 clinical trials do not matter to the scientific community?

I mean look at this Phase 2 clinical trial publication, published in the peer-reviewed journal “cancer Therapy” – and it only shows like a 27% cure rate in brainstem glioma – which means!

Pay attention! Which means!

Wait, read it first!


Burzynski is not only publishing his “good results” but also, his BAD ONES TO!

So, now what do we do? Phase 2 clinical trials are now being published in the peer-viewed literature! The space aliens have landed and allowed phase 2 clinical trials to matter!

I can’t stand it! Can you?

Oh I just remembered, In Orac’s world, all Phase 2 clinical trials published or not – are all anecdotal and they all must bow before the Orac for punishment.

Sigh. Dear person with silly ‘nym, perhaps I should explain that the words with blue letters are links. If you hover your mouse over them the little arrow turns into a hand. Then you click on your mouse button and like magic it takes you to a new page.

Now about that paper, well here is what a someone who knows how to read papers said about it (see the different colored words, that is a link to another webpage):

When this journal’s website loaded, I started laughing and dragged my laptop to my fellow-scientist roommate. It looks like a relic from the 90s. Even more sketchy and unprofessional than the white-text-on-black-background and ugly use of frames is its repeated mentioning of its “rapid review process.” I couldn’t find out anything about the editorial board other than there’s some guy in Greece you should submit things to. And after a lot of digging, I couldn’t find an impact factor at all.

I have a comment in moderation. But stop embarrassing yourself, person with the silly ‘nym, and actually click on the links I included in my previous two comments.

Chris, I clicked, it seems everyone ELSE doesn’t know how to click due to all the space urine – that are currently in Phase 2 clinical trials.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: