FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 17 November 2015
On November 19th, the Texas Medical Board takes its case against Stanislaw Burzynski to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The Board alleges that Stanislaw Burzynski, who operates a cancer clinic in Houston, in treating 7 cancer patients (6 of whom are now dead): 1) violated the standard of care, 2) failed to demonstrate an adequate medical rationale for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment, and 3) violated standards of adequate documentation. The TMB also alleges that Burzynski’s practices of medicine: 1) constituted inadequate discussion of treatment alternatives; 2) constituted improper charges for care, drugs, medical supplies and other services 3) constituted inadequate informed consent; 4) aided and abetted the unlicensed practice of medicine; 5) constituted inadequate direction, supervision and control of medical care personnel; 6) constituted improper delegation of medical tasks; 7) constituted inadequate disclosure of ownership interest in a facility to which a patient is referred; and 8) violated the ethical and professional responsibilities of clinical investigators.
In the past, patients loyal to Dr. Burzynski have rallied the press to their cause, and they often believe that they will die if Burzynski loses his license. They often genuinely believe that Burzynski has cured them of their cancer using either his proprietary and experimentally unproven “antineoplastons” or his “personalized gene-targeted therapy,” an untested chemotherapy cocktail + sodium phenylbutyrate (a prodrug for antineoplastons), which Burzynski also manufactures. While these patients’ desperation is real and make compelling interviews, one must always approach personal anecdotes with skepticism, as 1) no anecdote is adequate to prove a medical claim and 2) no amount of bad evidence is equal to a single piece of good evidence–in the case of experimental treatments, large, controlled, and replicated clinical trials.
The fact remains that there are instances of spontaneous remissions in the medical literature for all of the “untreatable” cancers Burzynski’s patients claim he can treat. Burzynski has never shown that his patient response rates are higher than the spontaneous remission rate, or even better than current best practices, in controlled clinical trials. Burzynski has opened over 60 trials since the late 1990s and has published no reputable results (http://bit.ly/60Trials). When the media focuses solely on the few dozen patients who have gone to Burzynski and happen to have survived, they miss the rest of the 8,000 patients Burzynski claims to have treated who are not at the hearing supporting him. Those patients deserve to be remembered too, and their silence is deafening.
For authoritative background on the Burzynski case and the controversy surrounding it, the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients recommend USA Today reporter Liz Szabo’s thorough investigation (http://bit.ly/USATodaySzabo). For expert commentary on clinical trial design, breast cancer surgeon, translational medicine researcher, and editor of the Science Based Medicine blog David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., may be reached for comment at SBMEditor@icloud.com.
The Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients is a group of cancer survivors, families, and community members devoted to advancing ethical, promising, and transparent cancer research.