With the current brouhaha surrounding the Burzynski Clinic, it seems reasonable to examine the particular claims on his website. By way of a quick review, Burzynski is a doctor in Texas who claims to be able to treat and cure many cancers with a drug he calls “antineoplastons”. There is no evidence in the clinical literature that this is so. He is not allowed to dispense the therapy except as a study drug in an approved FDA protocol. He generally required cash on the barrel for treatment. Every expert I’ve spoken to (including oncologists and cancer surgeons, and internists like myself) consider him to be a quack, although given the slippery, subjective definition of “quack”, this is simply an opinion. So let’s move away from opinion and examine his claims directly. All claims examined are quoted from his website.
Our care encompasses a personalized and customized approach based on the individual genetic “fingerprint” of each cancer. Meaning what causes and stimulates that particular patient’s cancer.
I’d love to know more about this “genetic fingerprinting”. Cancer is a genetic disease at it’s core, and for a number of cancers, we have been able to exploit this. The most famous example is that of Gleevec, a drug that exploits a particular genetic defect in certain cancer cells. This “fingerprinting” is a growing science, and is widely applied by any oncologist, not just Burzynski. Their uses are still quite limited. Most tumors are still fought less specifically, albeit with treatments that have been shown to be effective. I don’t believe this claim, insofar as it implies that this can be done for any patient.
Dr. Burzynski is a pioneer in cancer research, known worldwide for discovering Antineoplastons, which act as molecular switches to turn off cancer cells without destroying normal cells.
Whether this is true depends on how we define “truth”. There are some basic science articles, all published by Burzynski as far as I can tell, that hint at this. There are, however, no phase III human trials published. None. I don’t believe this claim, as it would apply to humans.
Clinical trials conducted in our Clinic are FDA approved protocols. A protocol determines what will be done in a clinical trial and why. It outlines how many patients will participate in a clinical trial, type and frequency of medical testing, treatment plan, monitoring requirements and the evaluation plan. Our staff physicians strictly follow the protocol and submit periodical reports on the progress of the study for FDA evaluation. (Emphasis mine, PalMD).
I don’t believe this claim, based on an FDA warning letter issued in 2009. According to the FDA warning, “we conclude that the IRB did not adhere to the applicable statutory requirements and FDA regulations governing the protection of human subjects.” The FDA has these issues listed as unresolved.
These are only a few examples. There is nothing on his own website that doesn’t make me uncomfortable. As far as I can tell from my own reading, there is no public database of his results in treating cancer. There is no way to verify the hyperbolic claims made by his supporters. As a physician, I would advise any patient of mine to steer clear of this man.