Burzynski Patient Andrew S.’s Story

*An appeal to help get Congress to take action follows this story*
When you read the Caring Bridge blog [the source of this story unless otherwise indicated] from the S. family at the beginning of their story, you may be confused. Andrew was diagnosed with a brain tumor only days after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, so the planning for Andrew’s initial round of radiation coincides with his mother’s biopsy. I just can’t imagine what the family has been through.
On the day before Halloween 2007, Andrew has a port implanted. He begins chemotherapy and radiation the next day. He does a week on chemotherapy, but is soon taken off. The same week, his mother has the mass removed from her breast. By the 11th, his mother is able to be with her son at the hospital. The poor kid gets salmonella while in the hospital and has complications from the antibiotic he is on. The family can’t catch a break.
On November 14th, we hear:
Finally, some of you are aware that we have found a clinical trial (in Houston, Texas) that may possibly help Andrew. I will post more information about the trial as soon has I have time.
And the next day:
Finally, there have been some questions about the treatment we are pursuing for Andrew in Houston. Rather than giving you my own interpretation of the information, I’m going to give you a web address so that you can have as much information as you would like to have. Please, go to http://www.cancermed.com to check out the Burzynski Clinic. Andrew will finish his radiation treatments here before going there. (His treatment here should be finished around December 14.) They have tentatively said they would like us to arrive on the 26th or 27th of December. We are working out the details.
Andrew will finish radiotherapy before going to Houston. He has a bit of crisis late November, which lands him in the pediatric ICU after his sodium dropped and he was having seizures.
The radiation may be having an effect by the end of the month:
Written Nov 29, 2007 12:32am 
Andrew had an MRI done over the weekend. The report indicates “a large oval shaped mass which appears to originate from the right side of the pons.” (This is part of the brain stem.) The report also states, “…the mass does not appear larger and may actually be minimally smaller.” Dr. Saah said that the MRI itself shows that there is increased space between the mass and the back of the brain and that there is not as much swelling as there was when the first MRI was done on October 25th.
And the poor kid gets a damned kidney stone and UTI for Christmas. He still has salmonella.
Andrew is a clever, thoughtful kid. His parents take down all the weird little things that he says, and you should read them. There is a brilliant innocence in his use of language. My favorite example, I think, comes on December 7th:
Written Dec 7, 2007 8:51am
I’m having a PET Scan this morning, and Andrew has had lots of questions about it. A minute ago he told me, “I’ve had PET Scan.” I said, “You’ve had a CAT Scan.” He said, “Oh. (pause) Well, a cat is a pet, so I thought they were the same thing.”
Good news on the 15th. The cancer has responded to the radiation:
Written Dec 15, 2007 12:27am
Andrew’s CAT Scan report says “…the size of the mass is dramatically decreased.”Evidently this is somewhat unusual–even as a result of radiation. The nurse practitioner who works with oncology at the hospital has requested dimensions so that we have more of a specific understanding of what has happened.
Two days later, he’s back in the hospital passing kidney stones. Also:
They are checking on the possibility of scheduling an MRI (of the brain) for today–while we are still in the hospital. (It was originally scheduled for tomorrow night.) We need this MRI for the Burzynski Clinic.
His first appointment at the Burzynski Clinic is on the 27th at 9AM.
We met with Dr. Burzynski and one of the other doctors today at the clinic. Andrew will be having an MRI in the morning. There needs to be disease progression in order for him to begin treatment with the antineoplastons right away. (This is an F.D.A requirement; this medication is only available to those enrolled in a clinical trial.) If there is something–even something small–in the MRI that would indicate disease progression, Andrew will be able to begin the treatment. If not, he may become a patient of Dr. Burzynski’s in his private oncology practice; he will be treated with an oral medication–already F.D.A. approved–which is in the antineoplaston family. Being treated with this oral medication does not disqualify Andrew from being enrolled in the clinical trial in the future. 
The financial side of this became more of a reality today as we paid–up front–for the consultation and began to look at the payment schedule for treatment with the antineoplastons or for treatment as a patient in Dr. Burzynski’s private practice. Andrew’s medical needs are fully covered in the state of Michigan, but only emergency care is covered out of state. It’s interesting that this alternative treatment–which has had some success–is not considered emergency care. Medically speaking the standard treatment offers no cure–just more time. In the mind of a mother that means…this is an emergency! 
It is important to note at this point that the family has been told that the treatment has had some success. 
On the 30th, this update:
By the time we arrived back at the Burzynski Clinic, it was close to 4:00 pm. One of their doctors went over the films with us; he told us that there had been about a 10% decrease in the size of the mass since the last MRI only ten days earlier. The fourth ventricle of the brain–which had previously been pushed aside by the mass–now looks normal. Another doctor explained that because of this good news Andrew does not qualify for I.V. antineoplastons (one of the clinical trials) at this time. He will be seen in Dr. Burzynski’s private practice instead. 
We met with one of the doctors who works in the private practice, to go over the specifics of Andrew’s situation. We will be continuing to taper the decadron (the steroid). Today we cut the dosage down to 3 mg (from 4 mg) in the morning and 2 mg at night. We also raised Andrew’s zyrtec dosage from 5 to 10 mg to see if that makes a difference with his chronic sinusitis. (This is something that shows up on the CAT Scans and MRIs.) We are discussing the possibility of switching him to Singulair because he also seems to benefit from the use of an albuterol inhaler at times. (Singulair would cover allergy AND asthma symptoms.) Andrew also takes Prevacid (15 mg twice a day)
The day after this consult, a Saturday morning, we get an example of the fine care that you receive at the Burzynski Clinic for top dollar:
We sat in the waiting room until we were the only ones left. I knew that the port needed to be checked, and I had heard that the workers try to be out of the clinic by 11:00 am on weekend mornings. I was becoming concerned about the time, so I said something to the nurse. We were taken to a room at 10:15 am to speak with the doctor on call. I quickly realized that they were not planning to touch the port; it was getting late, and if a problem was discovered it would take too much time to resolve. I had to insist that the port be checked because we needed to know if it was working. It still would not draw, and the area around the port seemed irritated. (Andrew had been complaining all morning.) The clinic staff member wondered if there was swelling and suggested that we go to the Emergency Room.
By the time he gets to the hospital, blood has soaked through the port’s dressing. He is ineligible for the “clinical trial” because he has just had radiation.
Written Dec 31, 2007 1:00am
Someone has asked how we are feeling about the way things are going here in Houston. Andrew is not on the I.V. antineoplastons because he does not qualify for the clinical trials yet; however he is taking an oral medication (sodium phenylbutyrate) in the antineoplaston family. Rather than waiting for disease progression, we are attempting to fight the glioma before it advances. The I.V. antineoplaston statistics are encouraging–about 30% of patients have a dramatic or partial response to the medication (the mass is completely or partially gone), about 30% of patients become stable (no change), and about 30% of patients experience disease progression. Since most of the Burzynski Clinic brain tumor patients are on the I.V. antineoplastons, there are no statistics for the oral medication. One of the doctors said he felt that being seen in the private practice was better for Andrew because the treatment will be based upon exactly what Andrew needs rather than on the strict rules of a clinical trial.
What is so aggravating about this is passage the way the information is presented to them. The stats that they receive is that 60% of patients are at least stable. Burzynski does not have the clinical trials to back up this assertion. A further complication is that “any response” and “complete response” are grouped together in the same group. Seems very disingenuous to me.
Andrew’s mother returns to Detroit to begin her own chemotherapy on the first. It’s amazing how rarely she mentions her own condition as she documents this story. Her priorities are clear.
After the mother left, the Clinic springs chemotherapy on the family:
While [the mother] was preparing to start her chemo, we were surprised to learn that Andrew’s doctors in Houston are recommending a chemotherapy (Temodar) for Andrew which would go along with the oral medication he has been taking. The doctors were wanting to start it today, but the [S family] want to discuss this option — and the possibility of doing it at home — with their oncologists here in Lansing.
He’s back in the hospital trying to pass one of his kidney stones (there are 3) but gets out around the 12th. We soon hear what Andrew is on:
Written Jan 15, 2008 1:41am
Andrew began treatment under the direction of the Burzynski Clinic again today. He will be on three different medications–PB (the oral medication in the antineoplaston family) to help bring into balance the relationship between the oncogenes (onco refers to cancer) and the tumor suppressor genes. (In those who have cancer, this relationship is not right.) The other two medications will target specific oncogenes found to be a problem in Andrew. The first medication will target VEG-F which relates to a tumor’s blood supply. The normal level for this is anywhere from the 40’s to the 90’s. Andrew’s is over 200. The second medication will target another oncogene which is at the very top end of normal in Andrew–right on the borderline between normal and abnormal. Since I don’t fully understand this particular oncogene yet, I can’t explain it! 
On the 17th, a phone consult with the Clinic:
I listened by telephone to the meeting with Dr. Burzynski this afternoon. We are proceeding as planned–with the three medications; we are also lowering the decadron dosage. (We are supporting Andrew with two natural anti-inflammatories while we do this.) Dr. Burzynski indicated that it is unusual to see the results we have already seen from radiation alone, and that Andrew is doing extremely well. We have been told that dramatic response to treatment usually indicates a more aggressive tumor or cancer. He said that sometimes that is true, but not always. 
Things proceed fairly uneventfully until we get the next update:
Written Jan 25, 2008 11:57pm
[...] We had a great appointment with Dr. Gera, Andrew’s oncologist, on Tuesday. She spent so much time with us that she got behind with other patients. We went to have some lunch to give her a chance to catch up; then we went back so she could examine Andrew and talk with us at length about the Burzynski Clinic recommendations. We were having some difficulty at that time getting a doctor from the Burzynski Clinic to contact Dr. Gera. Because of this, we are still sorting out their recommendations and discussing them–along with their reasoning. God has blessed us with a wonderful doctor who truly wants what is best for Andrew and for our family. We are so glad that we are home and that Andrew is under her care!
In mid-February, as the family seems to be off-treatment in anticipation of having the kidney stones treated, the family starts to discuss other, better courses of treatment than the Burzynski Clinic:
Written Feb 18, 2008 10:50pm For several weeks we have been communicating with Dr. Kathy Warren at the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute regarding Andrew. She looked at Andrew’s MRI to confirm the diagnosis (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma) this past week, and has been very helpful in discussing (by e-mail and by telephone) treatment options with us and with Andrew’s oncologist. We are extremely impressed–and grateful–with how accessible Dr. Warren has been. She is not–yet–Andrew’s doctor; however, she responds to our e-mails and phone calls almost immediately. She has not tried to talk us into the clinical trials she is overseeing, but has presented them to us as options and has been willing to discuss other options (the Burzynski Clinic recommendations) as well. 
I am including part of a note I wrote to Dr. Warren earlier today because it accurately expresses our feelings about Andrew’s situation.
“…We understand the medical bottom line of Andrew’s diagnosis; however, we don’t want to live as if his life is over. He is full of energy, with relatively few physical problems–other than decadron side effects–right now. We know of kids who are doing okay with this diagnosis–2, 3, 4 and more years later. We can’t be assured that Andrew will be one of those kids, but neither can we be assured that he won’t.”
At some point, all mention of Burzynski simply….disappears. At some point I realized that I was simply following another patient’s progress through conventional, experimental treatments.
On March 2nd, we hear:
Andrew will be taking part in an Imaging Study under Dr. Warren’s direction. Dr. Warren’s research nurse is scheduling us to go to NIH some time in April. Dr. Warren has also encouraged us to take Andrew to see Dr. Stuart Goldman at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. We have already spoken to Dr. Goldman, and the plan right now is to wait to schedule an appointment at Children’s Memorial after we have the results of Andrew’s next MRI on March 10th.
So it seems that something has happened. A decision has been made. You would not know why they changed out of the Burzynski Clinic unless you go to the timeline in the family’s “my story” page:
February 2008
Andrew’s parents decide to stop the treatment recommended by Dr. Burzynski after conducting research and realizing that the children they could find who had been treated at the Burzynski Clinic for pontine glioma had not survived.
The family realized what skeptics know, that what happens in Houston does not save lives. Now, there is a note in March that the tumor had shrunk something like 65% from December. However, we can’t necessarily attribute that to Burzynski’s treatment, as Andrew was excluded from the clinical trial precisely because the results would have been muddied. Thankfully, the S family had a longer time with Andrew after diagnosis than most families, 25 months, and it’s clear he brought much joy to his family.
UPDATE, July 2014
In private communication from Andrew’s family, we were informed:
“There were red flags for us all along the way, but pulling away from the Clinic was not easy. It’s a cult-like environment. You feel like you are walking away from the group who has the answers. You are going to become one of those people who don’t understand and who don’t believe…. It was traumatic. That is why we simply stopped mentioning it on the website. We officially ended our relationship with the Clinic mid to late February 2008. We just did not know how to explain what we had just experienced.”  
Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Andrew B.’s Story

In the fall of 1995, 7-year old Andrew B. started vomiting. An MRI revealed PNET, a tumor in the pineal region. In December, surgeons removed a spherical tumor about an inch in diameter. Andrew’s case was reported in depth in The Times Union in April of 1996. The journalist, Holly Taylor, reported at the time:

Three leading cancer specialists said that Andrew’s cancer -a tumor called PNET and found in the pineal region – regrows and kills in 12 to 18 months if left untreated. The newest regimen of radiation and chemotherapy carries a 60 to 70 percent chance of cure, they claimed.

After doing her own research, Bryce instead embarked on a journey through the world of alternative cancer treatments and said she chose Burzynski because his patients spoke of remarkable recoveries from his nontoxic treatment.

“Not treating this kind of cancer is unheard of,” said Dr. Fred Epstein, a pediatric neurosurgeon who operated on Andrew at New York University Medical Center. “I’m surprised Burzynski is willing to treat this child. This is a curable case. This is absolutely unconscionable.” In the story, one can follow and understand the parents’  rationale. Irradiating a child’s brain is delicate and fraught with real dangers, including radiation necrosis and stunted development. Chemotherapy can be toxic, though it is often well tolerated and researchers are constantly refining treatments to reduce and manage side effects. Andrew’s family chose to forego a promising line of treatment by Jonathan Finlay at Sloan-Kettering for Burzynski’s antineoplaston treatment:

Yet [Andrew's mother] said Andrew would be a guinea pig with the maverick Burzynski or the established Finlay, so she chose the least toxic course.

This is based on the mistaken belief that antineoplastons, in some universe, is non-toxic. Of course the known side effects stretch to three pages in the patient consent forms. With no known benefits and only risks, putting anyone on antineoplastons ALWAYS fails a risk/benefit analysis. The hubris of the doctor administering the treatment is epic and would be farcical if it weren’t for the fact that he “specializes” in only the sickest children:

Comparing himself to Louis Pasteur, Burzynski says he’s fighting the country’s medical establishment and its gold standard of chemotherapy and radiation. He calls his drugs antineoplastons and said they stop the multiplying of existing cancer cells and prevent the growth of new ones without toxic side effects.

“The war on cancer is a failure. Chemotherapy is not going to cure cancer,” said Burzynski. “None of these doctors have had the chance to review our work. So they only know what chemotherapy and radiation can do.”

You see, there’s a difference between Burzynski and Pasteur–Pasteur published, his work was reviewed, and he earned the respect of his peers. Burzynski has piddling case series and patient anecdotes and half studies, none of which is published in a respectable journal. Of the 60+ trials he’s started, ZERO have been reputably published.

Here’s how Burzynski makes his money:

Under FDA regulations, Burzynski can sell his drugs in Texas, but cannot ship them out of state, so [Andrew's mother] has been traveling to Texas to obtain her son’s medication. She said her family paid $13,000 for the initial three week outpatient care at Burzynski’s clinic and they were spending $4,000 a month for drugs.

The FDA approved antineoplastons for clinical trials for patients with brain cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and adults with uncurable cancers, but the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act prohibits doctors from charging patients for medications in clinical trials because it creates a conflict.

[Burzynski spokesperson Dean] Mouscher said Andrew was placed in a clinical trial Friday and the family will pay for medical services, but not medications. Bryce said her local HMO wouldn’t cover experimental treatments so the family has paid the expenses themselves. [emphasis added]

Burzynski has treated patients protected by a legal technicality that does nothing to resolve the conflict of interest. At the time that the article was written, it appears that Andrew is active in tae kwan do and his dad says that his son is doing well. But this is apparently the grace period between surgery and recurrence, so of course he feels better. But the doctors warn that:

“without radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer “always” reappears in four to seven months [...].”

All of this was going on at the same time that Burzynski was on trial and his desperate patients were trying to put congressional pressure on the FDA:

His patients talk of miraculous recovery on talk shows and testified before Congress in February, as did [Andrew's family]. But the medical community and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration want to see hard data from him.

“He’s claimed thousands of cures, but very few of his patients have been put on a protocol. All he has to do is keep records,” said Barrie R. Cassileth, Ph.D., who teaches at the medical schools at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Duke University.

Keeping accurate records has never been Burzynski’s strong suit, as was revealed in this warning letter issued to Burzynski in December, and so his “thousands” of cures remain hypothetical.

And you want to know why his patients are willing to fight for them? He shamelessly wields their desperation like a shield, as was documented in a January 29, 1997 Washington Post article:

To Burzynski’s 300 grateful patients and their families, however, he is a savior, in most cases their last hope in the fight against swiftly growing brain tumors and other forms of cancer that do not respond to conventional treatments. To them, this is the most urgent matter of life and death, and they fear that if Burzynski is convicted, they, too, will receive a terrible sentence. He is the only source of the medicine they are convinced is keeping them alive.

“If I go, they will all die,” Burzynski said.

But at least this reprehensible vile creature doesn’t compare himself to Jesus.

“[His trial following a 70+ count indictment] is a big nonsense,” [Burzynski] said. “It is keeping me from my work. I am treating the sickest people you can find. It is not nice. It is difficult. They are like the lepers from the Bible.”

Oh, hell.

So there is, in his estimation, no salvation for these cancer patients but through Him. And these patients, including Andrew’s mom, did try to save him as we see in this newsletter clipping from the time:

defensefund

Such generosity has repeatedly resulted in the renewed victimization of the desperate. We see how things got started, and we see, essentially, exactly what is going on at the modern ANPCoalition website, where patients are desperately fighting Burzynski’s battles for him:

“We were lucky, we started treatment before the FDA deadline of February 10, 1996, the day the agency decided to cut off treatment for any new patients who didn’t meet certain criteria. The criteria: the person had to have exhausted conventional chemotherapy and radiation.

“The battle has reached the national level and four Congressional hearings have been held on the FDA’s abuse of power, most recently in July when parents of other children like myself fought for the right to choose Burzynski’s treatment. All the patients–including my son– need your help. The legal fund was originally developed to help Burzynski remain open. But the fund has dwindled after $50,000 was spent in the course so 7-year old Zachary [M] and 23-year old David [S] could stay on Burzynski’s medicine so they could stay alive.”

We do not see the outcome of Andrew’s treatment in the record. He lived for several years, but it is also clear that he had had multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, as his mother reports:

We were scheduled for yet another surgery. Summer had just arrived it was so warm and beautiful outside. Andrew no longer had the port for chemotherapy and was free to play in the water and be a child surgery meant bandages and inside looking out. We were devastated Andrew saw our pain and went quietly to his room collecting all his pins from the Alamo and distributed them to each of us with a quiet smile.

And:

He endured many surgeries and always had smiles and was more concerned for others than himself.

At age 9, after being in hospital isolation for two months, we breathed fresh air and touched grass for, what felt like, the first time. Andrew could not leave the hospital so neither did I, despite pleading from family. I needed to leave just for a little while, they said but I could not. The only thing I could do was watch the river with Andrew from his window and share his pain. That was all.

Andrew died under the care of a conventional doctor in New York at the age of 11. According to his mother:

When he was dying, I asked myself, “what could possibly be worse than this?” Because this was horrible–he was paralyzed, he couldn’t talk. It was anyone’s worst nightmare.

In memory of her son, Andrew’s mother established a foundation that supports children with cancer and that has funded actual research. The mother, however, thinks that Burzynski helped, though we’d call that a statistical outlier, who, let’s face it, had surgery:

I believe it gave him two more years of a full life. In the end we were not one of the lucky ones.

Please contact your representatives in Congress and inform them about the 202 pages of charges that were filed against Stanislaw Burzynski.  PLEASE don’t let this happen again.

Burzynski Patient Amanda C.’s Story

On November 28, 2011, mother of 2 Amanda C. of Brimington Common, Chesterfield (UK) was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma. It’s an aggressive cancer and her prognosis was poor. Doctors quickly determined that the tumor was in too delicate an area of her brain to debulk through surgery, so she embarked on a course of chemotherapy and radiation, which was very tough on her. According to her justgiving site:

Amanda had treatment at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield, 30 doses of radio & chemotherapy in 6 weeks.

This treatment is very aggressive with severe side effects and Amanda reacted badly to this. It made her very ill and caused her to be paralysed completely on her right side.

It’s a heartbreaking story. By May, according to a post on the Hope for Laura Fund page (Laura is now dead–most of the people who raise enormous amounts of money for Burzynski are) Amanda and her husband are already looking to the Burzynski Clinic:

May 21, 2012 at 3:15pm · Like ‑ Reply

Roger [C] Fantastic news….my wife & I are hoping to visit

the clinic soon…we are in touch with them

The projected cost, at least according to the justgiving site is £200,000 over a two year period.

In August, Amanda’s husband describes the alternative medicines that Amanda is taking:

She’s doing very well…at present. I give her:

1. Boswellia & Turmeric – reduces swelling so less dex steroids
2. Doctor Prasanta banerji Cal phos & Ruta gra 6 – 75% success with brain tumours
3. Curcumin
4. Garlic
5. Reishi Mushrooms
6. Apricot Kernels
7. Soduim Bi carb
8.GLA

Prasanta Banerji has appeared in two other stories on this website, the case of Maryn C. and the absolute extreme of possible harm I’ve ever seen inflicted by purveyors of alternative medicine, the case of Chase S. This Banerji character is a homeopath, which basically means he sells expensive water and placebo pills. Every brain cancer patient I’ve seen taking his remedies is dead. Not exactly a 75% success rate. The other treatments I recognize, apricot kernals (i.e., laetrile–kernels contain a substance that breakdown into hydrogen cyanide, which is as bad as it sounds) and sodium bicarbonate, are disproved and ineffective.

In early September 2012, when a friend posts on the Team Hannah website that they are still fundraising and this goes through to at least October. Burzynski isn’t cheap.

In October, we hear of intense fundraising in the local paper:

But following research into the Glioblastoma Grade 4 brain tumour, [Amanda's husband] discovered a treatment and possible cure at the Burzynski Clinic, in America, so the couple has set up the Amanda [C] Cancer Trust with fantastic fundraising plans including the charity shop at Unit 16, on Storforth lane, Trading Estate.

[Amanda's husband] said: “Amanda was told there was no known cure for this type of cancer and she had only three months to live. This was devastating for the whole family.

“But now the Amanda [C] Trust has been set up in a bid to raise awareness about brain cancer and to raise funds for Amanda’s treatment in America.”

This charity shop seems to be a business set up to support Burzynski. Indeed, fundraising went through December and beyond. According to an article in the local paper that ran on 27 December:

A Matlock fundraising event raised £500 towards pioneering cancer treatment.
A book sale was held at the County Hall organised by the Derbyshire county 

councillors’ secretarial team to raise money for Amanda [C]. [...]

Cllr Chris Jackson, vice chairman of the council, said: “I was very pleased 
to support this very worthy local cause and staff did a great job at helping to 
raise £500. The county council supports many organisations through the year 
in a formal way but small unofficial fundraising events like this can 

make just as important a difference.”

Amanda was worth it. Burzynski is not.

Following this, Amanda apparently visited the Burzynski Clinic in Houston in December, and she appears in the Derbyshire Times on March 6, 2013.

AmandaC

This article suggests that she was there for about a month, which is more or less standard when someone is put on Burzynski’s protocol. This is because patients’ caregivers are required to learn how to administer the drug. This fact, that lay people were routinely charged with programming the chemotherapy pumps, may have contributed to the over 100 overdoses that the FDA observed in patient records during an inspection of the clinic at about the time Amanda was there.:

Amanda [C], 46, spent four weeks at the Burzynski Clinic in Houston, Texas, in December where she received a pioneering drug in a bid to prolong her life.

Her husband [...] was also shown how to administor the Antineoplaston (ANP) drug at home.

And despite a few set backs since their return from Houston, things are starting to look up.

[Amanda's husband] said: “She has had her first scan and the doctors in America are pleased.

“The tumour is stationary and over the next few months we are hoping it decreases in size.”

The relentless positive attitude here is in some ways heartening, but it’s also discouraging, especially if we look at the record of her progress captured on social media. Before the above article was published, Amanda reported that she was taken off ANP (Feb 1), back on (Feb 3), off again because of bad blood values (Feb 18), had a seizure (Feb 20), and had increasing symptoms and her Hickman line replaced (5 March). All of this happened BEFORE this the article published on March 6th. Now, I understand the importance of being positive, but glossing signs of disease progression and complications as “things starting to look up”–and I fault the newspaper for not fact-checking–it can give a false impression of antineoplastons’ efficacy. A much more striking and higher profile case of a sharp difference in what actually happened and what was reported in the press was the case of Amelia S, when a paper crowed that she was returning to school, omitting mention of the logistical juggernaut that had to be assembled to make that happen. Burzynski has thrived on lazy journalism, and it’s probably why the Clinic pitched a fit when a real reporter paid the story as much attention as they did in November of last year, when he appeared on the cover of USA Today. Burzynski is apparently not used to real reporters.

Amanda was back on ANP on March 8, but suffered a bad fall only a few days later. The family continued to raise funds for treatment, which by their estimate was $8500 a month. Amanda died in May.

Please donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which does real research into brain tumors. If you want to take further action, protect the vulnerable, and put reliable information in front of patients who might be looking into this Clinic, the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients (facebook page here) have put up guidelines about how to boost good information into relevant search results.

Burzynski Patient Claire F.’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Claire’s story*

Claire F., mother of two, was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in May 2007 and underwent the underwent a normal course of therapy in the UK, surgery and chemotherapy. In January 2008, she was found to be in remission. She started dating and fell in love with Chris, an old friend. On Christmas 2009, Chris proposed. They booked a church and planned to marry on her 40th birthday in October. In May, however, a lump appeared in her neck. She tells the story on her website:

My GP put me on antibiotics, thinking the lymph nodes had probably come up due to a cold I had. Unfortunately, the antibiotics didn’t do anything, so I was once again referred to the breast clinic. Another painful biopsy was performed on my neck the very next day. The results of this showed the cancer had returned to my lymph nodes. I had an operation a week later to remove the lymph nodes in my neck. Unfortunately, one of them couldn’t be removed because it is attached to my jugular. Removing it would have caused me to bleed out. A few days after the surgery I had routine CT and bone scans to check for any spread of disease. The scans showed the cancer had spread to my spine and my right lung, as well as my neck. I was told I would be lucky to survive the next five years. I have been back on chemotherapy since July of this year [2010]. They’ve put me on oral chemo this time, which I can take at home and the side effects aren’t too bad.

Claire and Chris went forward with planning the wedding and held it as planned, Claire taking a break from her chemotherapy so that she would be at her best that day. The next day, however, they got her scans from an previous test and learned the cancer had spread. She was on a new treatment but looking ahead:

My Mum has recently heard about a doctor in Houston, Texas, Dr Stanislaw Burzynski, who has been conducting clinical trials into gene therapy for over 30 years and how it can treat cancer without causing the unwanted side effects of chemotherapy. Gene therapy is apparently the way forward in treating, sometimes completely eradicating, cancer cells. My husband and parents are of the opinion that we must try everything possible, otherwise we would never forgive ourselves for not giving it a go. This treatment is groundbreaking but unfortunately very expensive.

We have estimated the costs for treatment, travel and accommodation to be in the region of a staggering $100,000 (approximately £65,000). As none of us have this amount of money to hand, we are planning all sorts of fundraising events. So far, my Mum has managed to raise around £15,000 from family donations, which is amazing and is enough to get me and my Dad to Texas, pay for our accommodation and have all the initial tests and treatments out there. We have to stay there for up to a month the first time we go, hence the costs. Chris and my Mum will stay home to look after the girls.

A major reason we are writing this site is that these patients don’t fall into the trap that the Burzynski Research Institute’s antineoplaston trials are anything like respectable. Antineoplaston therapy is no more gene therapy than is eating a banana. It is at this point that Claire is at her most vulnerable. She has been given 5 years at the most to live, has two girls, and is just married. She deserved to participate in a legitimate clinical trial that had a chance of prolonging her life. The Burzynski trials were appalling parodies of the scientific investigation, ones that seemed designed to rope in as many paying patients as possible. In a recent site inspection following the death of a child, the FDA made the following observations:

Among the newly released observations by FDA inspectors:

  1. Burzynski (as investigator, the subject of the inspection) “failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.” This means that several patients who were reported as “complete responses” did not meet the criteria defined in the investigational plan, as were patients who were reported as having a “partial response” and “stable disease.” This means that his outcomes figures for these studies are inaccurate.
  2. Additionally, some patients admitted failed to meet the inclusion criteria for the study.
  3. Even though patients needed to have a physician back home to monitor their progress prior to enrolling in a trial, the FDA found a patient who began receiving treatment before a doctor had been found.
  4. Patients who had Grade 3 or 4 toxic effects were supposed to be removed from treatment. One patient had 3 Grade 3 events followed by 3 Grade 4 events. Another patient had 7 disqualifying toxic events before he was removed from the study.
  5. Burzynski did not report all adverse events as required by his study protocols. One patient had 12 events of hypernatremia (high sodium), none of which was reported. There are several similar patients.
  6. The FDA told Burzynski: “You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care. Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses between January 1, 2005 and February 22, 2013, according to the [trial number redacted] List of Hospitalizations/SAE (serious adverse events) [redacted]/ Overdose [redacted]/Catheter Infection report. Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.” [emphasis added] It seems that these overdoses are related to the protocol, which requires family members to administer the drugs via programmable pump on their own. Further, patient records show that there were many more overdoses that were not included in the Hospitalization/SAE/Overdose list.
All of that is included in the first observation. The second observation showed that Burzynski failed to maintain the records required by his protocols. Specifically:
  1. “Your [...] tumor measurements initially recorded on worksheets at baseline and on-study treatment [...] studies for all study subjects were destroyed and are not available for FDA inspectional review.” This is one of the most damning statements, as without any…not a single baseline measurement…there is no way to determine any actual effect of the antineoplaston treatment. This means that Burzynski’s studies–which by last account cost $30,000 to begin and $7000 a month to maintain–are unpublishable.
  2. Some adverse events were not reported to the Burzynski Clinic IRB for years. (One patient had an adverse event in 1998 and the oversight board did not hear about it until 2005.)
  3. The FDA observed that the informed consent document did not include a statement of extra costs that might be incurred. Specifically, some informed consent documents were signed days to weeks before billing agreements, and in a couple of cases no consent form could be found.
  4. The clinic was unable to account for its stock of antineoplastons.

To summarize. The FDA observed that Burzynski’s success rate was inflated, crucial patient records had been destroyed (as far as we can tell, rendering all of his trials completely unverifiable and unpublishable–if Claire was indeed on a trial, her case would not count toward the scientific understanding of antineoplastons, a costly betrayal), that there were numerous serious toxic events, many of which went unreported for long periods of time, that patients were denied informed consent, that paying patients were allowed on the studies who shouldn’t have been included and that patients who should have been dropped were kept on longer than they should have been, and that Burzynski had violated his own protocol.

On Dec 14 of 2010, we hear from her on her webpage:

Thanks for all the well wishes over the last few days. I got my scan results today. They show that the combination chemo drugs haven’t succeeded in shrinking my tumours. My spine is still stabilised, but the neck & lung lesions have grown slightly (again). So, I am going to be put on a different chemo regime, this one is called Gem-Carbo and it’s intravenous, rather than oral treatment. I’m hoping to start this before Christmas. Next week, I’m going to be having daily radiotherapy to my neck to shrink the lymph node that’s been left there, as it’s now giving me some discomfort. The plus side is that my liver and all my other major organs are clear. My oncologist is referring me to see a doctor in Charing Cross hospital, who is aware of the doctor in Houston and his gene therapy treatments. This will arm me with much more information before I head off to Texas. Could be better news, but it could also be so much worse! Xxx

Her radiation treatment is intense and knocks her down a little. Then, right at the end of the year we hear:

The original plan was for me to travel to Texas yesterday, but a couple of weeks ago, my oncologist sent a referral for me to see a professor at the Charing Cross Hospital in London. There are links between Dr. Burzynski in Texas and the Charing Cross Hospital, so my doctor thinks it makes sense for me to see the guy in London and get armed with as much information as possible, before flying out there. My Mum has also recently discovered that there is a clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, which has doctors working under Dr. Burzynski’s guidelines. I am still waiting for the London appointment to come through. As soon as it does, we will know exactly where I’m going and when, but please rest assured that all the money which has been so generously donated will go directly towards my treatment. If I’m able to go to Zurich instead of Texas, the money we’ll save on travel and accommodation will probably pay for at least an extra month’s worth of treatment, which is fantastic. Better still, I won’t have to be so far away from my husband and children for so long!

This is unusual. This is the first we’ve heard of a Zurich clinic. Nonetheless, Claire’s oncologist is mistaken. The physician, Professor Coombes, it turns out, does not have ties with Burzynski, but with a reputable research institution in Houston, MD Anderson, as we hear on Jan 18th:

Just to fill you all in on Friday’s appointment. It didn’t go as well as we hoped it would, because Professor Coombes is linked to another clinic in Texas, the M.D.Anderson Clinic, as opposed to the Burzynski Clinic which we were hoping to get more information on. Having researched Dr Burzynski more over the weekend, the plan is still to visit him to see what he can do for me. His work is still in the clinical trials stage, which is why he’s not known worldwide (and why it’s so flipping expensive!). I feel a little bit deflated about this, but we’re still going to go ahead. We have to try everything that’s out there. Chris has been in touch with some patients of his who absolutely swear by his work.

And the Burzynski Patient Group rears its ugly head, pulling another desperate family into Burzynski’s clutches. In all the years he’s been in “clinical trials” he should have been able to produce a single finished, published study. Claire deserved better. She deserved MD Anderson. On the 2nd of February, she has her Hickman line put into her chest, which is how her antineoplastons will be administered. The traditional chemo is having a positive effect, however, as we hear on March 4th:

Just got back from my results appointment and the news is good! The tumours in my spine and my neck have stabilised, my brain is clear, I have no new disease anywhere else in my body, the new swelling in my neck is muscle damage from having the hickman line put in (which can be treated with physio) and the best news of all is…. the tumour on my lung has shrunk by 1cm!!! This all means that the new treatment is working and I’m raring to go ahead with the next dose tomorrow. I don’t care how crap it makes me feel, it’s working, WOOHOOO!!!! My Mum was crying her eyes out, God love her. The next step is to go and see Professor Coombes again in London, then it’s Texas, here we come!! Thanks to all of you for the thoughts and prayers, they’re obviously working too! xxx

In the meantime, her family and friends are raising money for Burzynski like crazy. By June, however, she still hadn’t gone out to Texas. She is facing some infection issues and she gets violently ill when she starts Taxol, as we hear on June 13:

Chris contacted the clinic in Texas, just to make sure I can have their treatment whilst on chemo and I can! So I started the taxol today. I feel fine at the moment, just very tired.

Interesting. How would you be able to sort the effects of the chemotherapy from any result the ANP would have? (Answer: you can’t. Worst researcher ever.) She returns from the hospital on July 1. As Claire said:

Two weeks ago, I didn’t even have enough energy to lift my head from my pillow and the team have really got on top of my pain management. So, I am now pain and sickness free and Chris and I have been looking into leaving for Texas in two weeks’ time. Flights, car, accommodation and, most importantly, the Burzynski Clinic are all ready for us. The clinic have had all of my medical notes and have said I am eligible for their treatment. All I have to do now is convince Dr. Shah to reinstate my fit to fly letter and get some insurance, then we’re off! I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of you for the donations and lovely messages I’ve received over the last few weeks. I’m completely overwhelmed by this and the support it has given me has been tremendous for my emotional wellbeing. Most of all, I’d like to thank Christopher Faulkner and my parents for looking after me, my children & my blog (!) and for pulling out all the stops to arrange this potentially life saving trip, whilst keeping a bedside vigil for me.

Claire and her husband meet Burzynski on July 18th:

We had our first appointment at the Burzynski Clinic today and got to meet Dr. Burzynski himself, which was a real honour. Today’s appointment was for consultations with the doctors, blood tests and a meeting with the financial team. [...] The next step is for me to have full body PET and CT scans. These will take place either on Tuesday or Thursday of this week. In the meantime, I am going to be started on tablets tomorrow (tuesday), which are a form of gene therapy. We will also be meeting a nutritional specialist, who will give me a list of what I should and shouldn’t eat whilst on the treatment. I’ve already been told today to avoid sugar, bread, pasta and rice… some of my favourite things! That’s you all up to date for now.

On the 23rd we hear:

After taking just 2 doses of the antineoplaston medicine, I spent all of Wednesday night being violently sick and ended up being carted off in an ambulance during the early hours of thursday with ridiculously high blood pressure and pulse rate. The staff at the emergency room were amazing and they gave me an anti-sickness drug and morphine for the pain. Then they hooked me up to a saline drip for a couple of hours to rehydrate me. I felt better in no time, just very tired and weak. We were handed a bill for $1,250 and put in a taxi back to our hotel. Thank God I took out that insurance policy, hopefully we’ll be able to claim most of this cost back when we get home. Thursday was a write off as I spent most of the day trying to catch up on sleep. I missed my appointment at the Burzynski clinic because of it. Chris phoned the doctor there and they’ve re-schelduled my appointment for Monday, giving me the weekend to completely recover from the sickness. Needless to say, I’m not taking the antineoplaston doses for now.

It’s hard to tell what treatment she is on, honestly. She was on “pills” which suggests she is on sodium phenylbutyrate, but she seems to think that it is antineoplaston (PB is a prodrug for the components in ANP). She has been given a liquid form of it, however. The tumor in her neck was pressing up against her vocal cords, and it seems likely that her swallowing is problematic. It does not sound like she is on a clinical trial. You will notice the huge range of side effects that she is suffering, including high blood pressure and tachycardia–these could be direct results of the massive sodium load that Burzynski’s patients have to carry, which can lead to hypernatremia.

The Clinic starts her on Herceptin and Avastin, both common breast cancer drugs. It sounds like she is taking the chemo cocktail route, wherein chemotherapies that have not been tested together are administered to patients. Burzynski sells this as “gene-targeted therapy.”

On July 18th, Claire’s husband notes what is happening:

Time is passing by, we’ve been here for over a week already and we’ve still yet to get Claire started on any treatment that she can tolerate and give us a plan of action to take back to the United Kingdom to present to our Doctors.

The three drugs that have been proposed by the clinic total at $13,825 per month which works out at roughly £8,413 back home.

Once Claire has been cleared to start this treatment we are hoping to get at least two weeks worth here before returning home and then looking to continue the treatment with the NHS and the clinic working together.

Dr.Rakhmanov ( in charge of Claire ) has already said that he will personally fax the plan of action to Claire’s oncologist and does not believe that Claire should have any problems being treated with two of the three proposed drugs, he does however feel that one of them may be controversial but we will have to deal with that if and when it happens.

Of course, the NHS decides that it will not foot the bill, which means more fundraising. On the 14th of August, we hear about her progress, as she is back home in the UK. She’s had it tough:

On Monday of this week, I had my discharge appointment at the Burzynski Clinic. When we arrived there I was in terrible pain on the right hand side of my back, the pain was so bad that I was in tears and quite short of breath. The nurses saw I was distressed and took me to another room to be put on oxygen. This really helped and I felt better in no time. We had the discharge appt, settled our bill for all the drugs/assistance we’d had so far, had our photo taken with Dr. Burzynski and left the clinic.

That photo was posted on her webpage:

Clairejpg

She goes on:

Half way though the flight, I started to get the same back pain I’d had on Monday. Remembering oxygen had helped me then, I asked the stewardess for some. She obliged and I soon got a little audience! But I didn’t care, it was making me feel better.

That Friday, back home, she got up to answer the door and passed out. After she started coughing up blood, her family took her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was in the hospital until the 28th, and then when she came home, she was leveled by a hospital acquired infection.

On 21 September, Claire died. Burzynski’s treatment does not appear to have done anything, but he got his cut.

Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Kyla F.’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Kyla’s story*

On 5 September 1996, 22 month-old Kyla F. was having trouble walking and swallowing, and her eye was turning inward. After months of exams, it was determined that she had a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, the nearly universally fatal tumor that people think, for some reason, that he can cure. These tumors can rarely be biopsied because they are tangled in the delicate wiring of the brain stem. Kyla’s was the size of an egg when she was diagnosed.

After 5 months of treatment on chemotherapy to little avail (and because her age and the placement of the tumor made radiation dangerous), the family began looking for new options. They heard about Burzynski through the father of a little boy, Eric Z., who had the same brain tumor. Eric is now dead.

At the time, March of 1997, Burzynski was allowed to continue to pump antineoplastons into children, but only as part of clinical trials. He opened over 60 “to treat every type of cancer the clinic had treated and everything Burzynski wanted to treat in the future,” said his lawyer. Notice he does not say, “every type of cancer that seemed promising” or “could be helped.” Nope. He wanted to treat these cancers and he did, charging patients tens upon tens of thousands of dollars to participate in his “trials.” Not a single damned one of them has ever been published, and the trust of every patient who participated in the trials expecting their suffering and money to go into useful research was betrayed.

It may be just as well, however, as the trials were incompetently run from every single measurable criterion, from the IRB that, if it were attached to a research university receiving federal dollars, would cause all the clinical research at the university to be shut down. The deficiencies outlined in site observations released in November of 2013 found:

Among the newly released observations by FDA inspectors:

  1. Burzynski (as investigator, the subject of the inspection) “failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.” This means that several patients who were reported as “complete responses” did not meet the criteria defined in the investigational plan, as were patients who were reported as having a “partial response” and “stable disease.” This means that his outcomes figures for these studies are inaccurate.
  2. Additionally, some patients admitted failed to meet the inclusion criteria for the study.
  3. Even though patients needed to have a physician back home to monitor their progress prior to enrolling in a trial, the FDA found a patient who began receiving treatment before a doctor had been found.
  4. Patients who had Grade 3 or 4 toxic effects were supposed to be removed from treatment. One patient had 3 Grade 3 events followed by 3 Grade 4 events. Another patient had 7 disqualifying toxic events before he was removed from the study.
  5. Burzynski did not report all adverse events as required by his study protocols. One patient had 12 events of hypernatremia (high sodium), none of which was reported. There are several similar patients.
  6. The FDA told Burzynski: “You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care. Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses between January 1, 2005 and February 22, 2013, according to the [trial number redacted] List of Hospitalizations/SAE (serious adverse events) [redacted]/ Overdose [redacted]/Catheter Infection report. Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.” [emphasis added] It seems that these overdoses are related to the protocol, which requires family members to administer the drugs via programmable pump on their own. Further, patient records show that there were many more overdoses that were not included in the Hospitalization/SAE/Overdose list.
All of that is included in the first observation. The second observation showed that Burzynski failed to maintain the records required by his protocols. Specifically:
  1. “Your [...] tumor measurements initially recorded on worksheets at baseline and on-study treatment [...] studies for all study subjects were destroyed and are not available for FDA inspectional review.” This is one of the most damning statements, as without any…not a single baseline measurement…there is no way to determine any actual effect of the antineoplaston treatment. This means that Burzynski’s studies–which by last account cost $30,000 to begin and $7000 a month to maintain–are unpublishable.
  2. Some adverse events were not reported to the Burzynski Clinic IRB for years. (One patient had an adverse event in 1998 and the oversight board did not hear about it until 2005.)
  3. The FDA observed that the informed consent document did not include a statement of extra costs that might be incurred. Specifically, some informed consent documents were signed days to weeks before billing agreements, and in a couple of cases no consent form could be found.
  4. The clinic was unable to account for its stock of antineoplastons.
And this is not the first time the FDA has inspected his site and found it wanting. This is merely the most recent in a decade-long string of abysmal site reviews.
Of course, we should probably expect as much when Burzynski’s lawyer described the first clinical trial as “a joke” in his memoir.
Kyla started antineoplastons on March 7, 1997. The parents seem to have been told that Kyla might have 2 months. That year, according to her mother’s personal website (cached from geocities):
Kyla started that treatment and has been on it ever since, racking up a bill that is currently 157,500 dollars. As long as she continues to received treatment the money is of little matter. Some parents save for college, we chose to save her life.
To my knowledge, there is no account of Kyla’s life on treatment, however,  on 26 May, 1998, her mother reported at the old version of the Burzynski Patient Group:
On antineoplastons, MRIs of her tumor have shown that it has remained stable, a miracle in itself. A PET scan in November of 1997 showed decreased metabolic activity of the tumor.
This suggests that the tumor hasn’t shrunk. And “stable,” again, is a slippery term that doesn’t necessarily mean “not growing,” only growing very slowly. (Decreased metabolic activity in a tumor, after all, is still metabolic activity in a tumor.) It seems that the tumor is a slow progressing one. In the same update, the mother says that,
“Today, May 26, 1998, she even stood on her own two feet without support!
Did she not usually? There is nothing in this to suggest to me that this was more than a slow growing tumor that may have been allayed by the badly tolerated chemotherapy. Her symptoms may have also benefited from steroids, if she was on them.
Kyla died on Monday, June 14th, 1999 at 7:35 AM.  Her tombstone reads:
Kyla
Come on. Let’s Go
You are and always will be
our Kyla, our hero
Our miracle our sunshine
our hope, our child.
Her mother wrote a poem about her little dancer.
Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Hannah H’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Hannah’s story*

On Oct 18, 2005, 4-year old Hannah H. began complaining of a headache after her mother took her to skating class. Her mom took her to the doctor who suggested that they go to the hospital to rule out anything serious. By the time they reached the hospital, however, Hannah was slurring her speech and was weak on one side. Very quickly it was determined that she had two brain tumors and one had started to bleed. The first tumor, a benign papaloma in the left ventricle,  was removed with surgery, the other, however, was on the brain stem. According to her mom:

They had to biopsy to see what it was – they had 6 Dr.’s in the operating room and were in there for about 4 hours. She came out of surgery fine with no problems and they were able to get a piece of tumour.

It was a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, one of the few diagnosed via biopsy. Hannah was in the hospital through Halloween, as was reported in the Vancouver Sun on Nov 1st.

The family continues conventional therapies (timodal and nemotuzamab) for the next year, but in mid-August 2006, the family is clearly looking for new options. They reached out to Justin B’s family (Justin died in 2007):

We’ve tried the standard treatments and while things have remained reasonably stable, with a few ups and downs, we are always looking out for alternate treatments. We’re hearing lots more about Dr. Burzynski’s treatment and would like to ask you some questions about it

Hannah’s family is talking to other Burzynski patients’ families as well. On 9 Sept, on Leo D.’s page (Leo died the next month), her mother leaves a note:

We have found the same thing with Hannah and the Dexamethazone (what they call Decadron in Canada) we have found that her muscles have gotten way weaker, so her walking is really suffering and her speech has declined a great deal – we are also trying new things to get her off the dex… however we’re finding it really hard to do, we use the liquid and can get her down to .25 of a mg and then we have to go up again because we can’t understand what she’s saying… its been like that for about month now…

On Sept 22, the family announces that they will be flying down to Houston for antineoplaston therapy on the 24th and hope to start treatment on Monday:

Well, we have decided to take our daughter Hannah to Houston and have her treated at the Burzynski clinic. Of the choices offered to Hannah for treatment, this seems to offer the best hope for long term survival. The various chemo treatments had what seemed to be good results for short term survival but Antineoplastons had the better long term numbers.

We’ll be be flying down from Vancouver on Sunday morning and get started on Monday with treatment. we’re making all the necessary  arrangements now and hopefully things will go smoothly.

The statement about long-term numbers is not borne out by the evidence. In fact, there is no good evidence that antineoplastons work. Over 60 trials have been started by Burzynski, but none has been seen through to publication. These are the trials that might have established anything like survival rates, so with no finished, published studies there is no basis for anyone to assert that a “rate” exists. Of course, maybe the clinic was sharing preliminary data, but the problem with that is a recent inspection found that Burzynski (as investigator, the subject of the inspection):

“failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.”

This means that several patients who were reported as “complete responses” did not meet the criteria defined in the investigational plan, as were patients who were reported as having a “partial response” and “stable disease.” As a result, his outcome figures for these studies are inaccurate. Furthermore, all the baseline measurements for all patients whose files were reviewed by the FDA were destroyed and not available to investigators. Basically, his results can’t be reviewed. This is part of a pattern of sloppy “research” that stretches back for at least a decade.

The family goes through the customary training period at the clinic, because Burzynski’s treatment requires patients to fend for themselves. This likely contributed to the over 100 overdoses and serious but often unreported toxic events that the FDA uncovered during their inspection. For the record, the FDA told Stanislaw Burzynski:

“You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care. Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses between January 1, 2005 and February 22, 2013, according to the [trial number redacted] List of Hospitalizations/SAE (serious adverse events) [redacted]/ Overdose [redacted]/Catheter Infection report. Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.” [emphasis added]

This would have shut down any research institution that received government funds. We’re talking about entire universities, here, not individual studies. Yet Burzynski still treats patients.

While on treatment, Hannah experiences the overwhelming thirst that comes with ANP’s massive sodium doses, with the attendant side effect of urination, and this causes all sorts of problems and consternation:

We’ve had Hannah on the ANP treatment for almost 2 weeks. Things have been going pretty well with treatment and Hannah hasn’t shown any bad reaction to the medication yet.

We’ve had Hannah in diapers for about 3 weeks and what we’ve had a problem with is all the diaper changes and leaks when Hannah is sleeping. There doesn’t seem to be many times when we are able to get her changed at night and often during the day when she doesn’t have a really big pee and fills her diaper and then leaks. This can only get worse the the projected fluid increase as she continues on the treatment.

Ultimately the family decides to line child diapers with adult diapers. That much fluid is going through the poor little girl.

The family had just returned to Vancouver from Houston when we hear that Hannah has died. She died at the same hospital where she was diagnosed a year earlier. The family thanked the staff of the hospital in Hannah’s obituary. The Burzynski Clinic was not mentioned. I see no mention of any positive results of Burzynski’s antineoplastons in Hannah’s case.

One of the lasting effects of Hannah’s experiences has been the establishment of Hannah’s Heroes, which funds legitimate cancer research and operates to this day. One of the sad facts is that the rare tumor that Hannah had is not well understood and there are not many good therapeutic options. Hannah’s Heroes are trying to fill the research gap in the area of brain stem tumors.

Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Keith G.’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Keiths’s story*

In January 2007, 29-year old Keith G. started having serious headaches and vomiting. A CT scan of his head showed a large mass. He had emergency surgery, and a week later was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, this only 3 months after his brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Several surgeries, courses of chemotherapy, and radiotherapy allowed him to fight off the tumor for a couple of years. He married in May 2008. In March 2010, a scan showed that the cancer was back, and this led to more surgery in April. This time the tumor came back very rapidly, was removed again in September, and was found to be grade 4.   They started a variety of oral and IV chemotherapies, but Keith’s wife was looking for other options, as the chemo made Keith very tired. In fact, the family was already looking at the Burzynski movie by 15 June. By August 2011, Keith was well along the road to the Burzynski Clinic.

After they arrived in Houston, Keith and his wife found that their insurance company did not cover antineoplastons (they almost never are because the treatments are unproved and unpromising). As his wife explained in the Limerick Post:

“Treatment is very expensive here as all medical treatment in the US, but we can’t let that stop us.”

This is not the first time that we’ve seen this when folks come to see Burzynski from abroad. The mother of Luna P. said this as well, that treatment in the US is always expensive. But there are compounding issues at play here. First, the expensive chemotherapies are for treatments known to have a chance of working. Second, when people here see that their week at the hospital cost $200,000, they don’t often realize that the hospital only expects to recoup a fraction of what they submit to the insurance company, so they ask for a lot. Patients who are self-pay often get a self-pay price for their care, which is more in line with the market value of the treatment.

Another interesting comment from Keith’s wife in that article:

“It is gene targeted treatment that has seen very good results on brain tumors. It is not a form of chemotherapy and is non toxic.”

This is simply false in every particular. Burzynski has never been able to finish and publish a trial that would give him anything like a cure rate. And it seems like he never will, since a recent FDA inspection of his trials revealed a host of colossal, inexcusable, and profoundly damning deficiencies in the trials, from inflated outcomes in 66% of the patient records examined to all baseline measurements destroyed. You can read about this unthinkable list of violations at the Burzynski Clinic at USA Today and links to the primary documents at thehoustoncancerquack.com. The 3-page list of known toxicities from Burzynski’s own patient consent forms includes:

  • severe or life-threatening increased sodium concentration in blood;
  • risk of death;
  • allergies;
  • difficulty arousing;
  • coma;
  • severe or life-threatening low potassium concentration in the blood;
  • decreased levels of consciousness;
  • upset stomach;
  • low platelet numbers requiring transfusions;
  • severe fatigue interfering with activities of daily living;
  • fever greater than 104F;
  • frequent urination at a rate of urination at least once every hour of more often or a requirement for a catheter;
  • liver toxicity;
  • hallucinations;
  • vomiting;
  • chills;
  • swelling;
  • irregular heartbeat;
  • decreased white blood cell count;
  • slurred speech.

On September 17, “The K Project,” a fundraising campaign for Keith’s treatment, is set in motion.

On September 20, 2011, Keith’s wife sends a note to concerned family back home in Ireland:

… Keith is on a combination of oral drugs at the moment & if a positive response is seen then he will probably be put on to an iv drug called Antioneoplastons. After approx 2 weeks on this he will be allowed to go home where he will continue treatment. Everyone in the clinic are lovely. They are pretty busy & have alot of foreign patients. If anyone is interested there is a movie that some of ye might find good. It’s called. ‘burzynski the movie’ on u-tube. Just look for the full length version.

So I will keep ye all up to date with what is happening over here.

On the fundraiser’s twitter feed, we hear:

After a few days rest K is back into the Texas Clinic today. He is pretty tired but is in good form. He thanks everyone for their support

Sadly, the movie that they are referring to is profoundly misleading, and it is clear that the filmmaker does not understand the patient records that he included, as they demonstrate that the tumor sizes are unrelated to dose or time on treatment. This means that, regardless of the outcome, the antineoplastons are likely not having any therapeutic effect. Most viewers won’t know how to read these files, and it will leave them with a badly flawed perception of their prospects at the clinic.

On September 20th, we get an update:

We really never expected anything like this but it really takes a lot of pressure off us as medical treatment in the US is very expensive & we found out just when we got here our insurance company would not support Keith. So this will be a great help towards his treatment.  We have been in Houston now 3 weeks. We originally thought we would be here for 4 weeks maximum but it now seems we could be here for another 4 weeks but we really are unsure about this.

On September 27th, we get a pair of tweets:

Ks had a hard few days and has been pushed to the limit on a massive collection of Meds. However he is in good form and looking ahead.

After a recent MRI we now know there has been no tumor regrowth and its the same as the last scan a few months ago. This is a good thing too

On October 2, the twitter feed reports that Keith has low phosphorous levels, but they are back to normal on the 4th.

By October 6th, the K project has raised 7,000 euros for Burzynski’s treatment and on the next dayfriends back home have a huge fundraiser for Keith and his wife. The next morning, the account is up to 12,000 euros. In all, about 10,000 euros were raised on a single night. But on the 8th we also hear that Keith is having seizures and that his Keppra is being upped. On the 11th, they announce that he will be seeing a neurologist about the seizures. 

The family is still in Houston on 19 Octoberit seems, and his story appears in the Western People newspaper. At this point 18,000 euros have been raised for Burzynski. Irresponsibly, the journalist says that Burzynski has “a remarkable success rate, especially among young cancer victims who have suffered miracle-type cures under his care.” James Laffey, if you are going to announce miracles, by god make for damned sure that the miracle healer doesn’t end up on the front page of the USA Today exposed as a quack in front of the world before you commend him uncritically to other desperate people. 

In late October, we hear in the Connaught Telegraph:

Keith and his wife Brenda have to travel to Texas about three times during each year of treatment and are currently there receiving the first stage. Meanwhile, back home a number of fundraising events are kicking into gear over the coming weeks.

The total cost will be about  €75,000. A huge number of events are set up to meet this goal.

The family arrives back in Ireland on the 22nd of October. Four days later, Keith is suffering from a chest infection at the site of the port that he had installed to receive the antineoplastons. This is a known, frequent adverse event associated with antineoplaston treatment. On the 27th, in the Galway Advertiser, his sister notes:

“Keith has been very weak and having frequent seizures but these are now being brought under control. He had an MRI scan not so long ago and it showed no change. This is not a bad thing as his tumour is very very aggressive and the fact it hasn’t grown more is good news in itself as he has been off chemotherapy for nearly three months now.”

Keith died on 16 Dec 2011. According to The Western People:

“On his return from America, Keith developed further complications and his health deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks. He passed away on Friday surrounded by family and friends.”

There is nothing in the public record to suggest that for all the hard work and fundraising by Keith and his friends that Burzynski’s treatment did anything more than give poor Keith an infection.

Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes and warning letters–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Laurye L.’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Laurye’s story*

(note: quotations from the Laurye’s family’s website are translated from French)

In September 2002, 2 year old Laurye L. was taken to the optometrist, who diagnosed her as farsighted. In January, doctors carried out some visual tests on her, but it turned out that Laurye’s visual problems were not in her eyes, but in her brain. In early March 2003, her health was clearly deteriorating. On the 11th of that month, her parents received a diagnosis. It was that monster that keeps appearing on this website, the Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a brain stem tumor for which there is no real effective long term treatment and to which most patients succumb.

Three days later, Laurye had surgery to reduce pressure in her head, but the prognosis was the same. The family was discouraged from making Laurye suffer through chemotherapy by their doctors. They did, however, give her cortisone and started 28 radiation sessions, which seemed to slow the growth of the tumor.

The family found a real clinical trial in North Carolina (“a chemotherapy with painful side effects without promise of success”) and they found Burzynski, whose treatment, antineoplastons (ANP), they believed, gave Laurye a 50% chance of a cure.  No published studies of ANP exist to substantiate that number, or any number for that matter. In fact, the FDA recently observed Burzynski (as investigator, the subject of a recent inspection):

 “failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.” This means that several patients who were reported as “complete responses” did not meet the criteria defined in the investigational plan, as were patients who were reported as having a “partial response” and “stable disease.”

This means that his outcomes figures for these studies are inaccurate. Given these findings, there is no basis for any percentage given by anyone about the efficacy of antineoplastons to be believed.

The parents describe their rationale:

“The name of the treatment is antineoplastons. [It is] nontoxic, the side effects are very minimal and do not affect the quality of life: excessive thirst which increases the volume of urine, no pain for Laurye. After many confirmations with patients who received treatments from Dr. Burzinski successfully, we chose this option believing that this is the best opportunity available to children with this type of tumor.”

Sadly, this is another case of the Burzynski Patient Group luring another person into Burzynski’s exam room. In August, the family goes on vacation, and Laurye is still well enough to learn to fish with her dad.

They outline their plan. On Nov 24, the family will leave Quebec for Houston. The intravenous treatment will cost them $7,200 for the first year and in the second year, capsules will cost $2,000/month for as long as Laurye is on treatment. Medicare does not cover the treatment, so the family sets up a foundation to fund Burzynski’s treatment.

In Houston, on the first of December, Laurye has a port installed in her chest where she will receive the antineoplastons, which will be pumped nearly continuously for months at a time. Laurye has an MRI the next day, and the family passes the next few weeks, like all other caregivers who come to Houston for ANP, learning how to administer the antineoplastons:

learning

This practice, having patients’ families administer the drug, may have contributed to the over 100 overdoses in the last few years. It does not explain, however, this observation by the FDA:

“You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care. Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses between January 1, 2005 and February 22, 2013, according to the [trial number redacted] List of Hospitalizations/SAE (serious adverse events) [redacted]/ Overdose [redacted]/Catheter Infection report. Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.” (emphasis added)

The family returned to Quebec on December 18th. The family reports:

Since December 3, Laurye is on intravenous injection. She must wear a backpack with 2 medication bags in it 24 hours a day. A small pump, connected by a pipe to the catheter, is programmed every four hours (6 doses per day ). We have to change the bags and reprogram the pump daily. In addition, Laurye has a healthy diet to follow and an MRI every two months. The only side effects are excessive thirst, fatigue, and frequent urination.

The unquenchable thirst and urination are caused by the high sodium load that ANP patients carry. According to the FDA’s findings, one patient experienced 12 episodes of hypernatremia (high sodium), none of which was reported.

The family’s new foundation very quickly holds numerous fundraisers, mobilizing the entire community. According to the numbers on the family’s website, no fewer than 18 fundraisers were planned. Additionally, first nine raised $31,520.75 for Burzynski. It is an outrage that the immeasurable kindness and generosity of entire communities has been squandered on Burzynski’s apparently unpublishable studies.

In February (presumably), we get another update.

Her current situation is stable. Every day is an uphill battle against this deadly disease for the whole family, for friends and especially for Laurye. This unique method of treatment [demands] a exceptionally big commitment of time, energy and courage from us. Currently, Laurye is doing very well. [...] The first months were difficult; before her body adjusted to the treatment, she was tired and irritable but the best is yet to come for our Laurye.

We got the results of the January 30, 2004 [MRI], encouraging news for our daughter. The tumor did not progress. She remained stable.

While this does mean that the tumor is not growing quickly, periods of tumor stability are not unexpected even without treatment.

Laurye has not had a winter like other children. We always had to be careful that she did not fall ill. Also, the pump does not react well to cold temperatures so we had to limit her outdoor activities. Laurye changed physically (weight gain and swelling) due to cortisone medication to be given in addition to the current treatment. This is to [prevent?] pain during treatment because [when] the tumor is attacked it can cause a lot of pressure in the head. After the good MRI results, we could reduce the cortisone.

This sounds a lot like a line that patients have been repeating throughout this project, that symptoms of getting worse (in this case, swelling in the brain stem) are often described by patients as if they were signs of getting better. Parents of sick children grasp anything at all that would suggest that their child is getting better, even when it is getting worse. We’ve seen a disturbing pattern of patients reporting that getting worse was getting better. We’ve seen it at least 10 times.

We don’t hear much, honestly, until 2005. A mysterious spot appears on the January MRI and disappears on the Feb 22 MRI. Another MRI is scheduled for April 5. The news is not good:

Laurye past a MRI on April 5 and the tumour increased of 3% and there are 3 spots (8mm, 4mm, 1mm).

Doctor Jurida asked [for] a pet scan to see if there is some activity in the spots. We are very worried. We are waiting for on appointment for the pet scan and with the results we will know more. But what we find weird is that in january there was a spot. Febuary it was gone and know there are 3 of them. [...]

Laurye eyes restarted to cross and her legs are hurting. Can someone tell if they ever have any spots like us and what happened.

We don`t know what to think? Doctor Jurida says that as long as we have some spots we cannot disconnect Laurye? It is going to be 17 months on the I.V. treatment and Laurye is starting to be tired of it.

By May, Laurye is off ANP. On May 22nd, she goes on Temodar, which seems to be a standard treatment for this type of tumor. Laurye’s mother reports in June:

Doctor Burzynski told us that it doesn’t do any good to keep Laurye on the treatment. He is suggesting the capsules of antineoplastons all alone or another possibility, capsule of sodium phenylbutyrate (PB) with a soft chimio.

I would like to know if you heard of the sodium phenylbutyrate capsule and what do you thing of them.

Laurye is loosing her ability`s a little bit every week but the clinic can`t tell me if it is necrosis or other tumours. The only way to know would be a biopsy and it is too dangerous, so we will never know.

They do mention that her only side effects from the chemotherapy is constipation and tiredness. In the same post, we see this:

We would like to take the best decision for Laurye. We decided to start oral chemo (TEMODAR) on may 23, 2005 hoping to stop the tumours if its the case for an undetermined time because we would like to go back to the antineoplaston capsules to prevent the increasing again. What if it is not the tumour increasing and it is necroses due to radiation. She is going to have done chemo for nothing, it doesn`t take the necrosis away. the only way to stop necrosis would be hyper-bar oxygene (HBO).

There is a question i’m asking myself and 2 doctors say 2 different things. Do you think chemo increases [radiation necrosis?]

Laurye’s flame is flickering in these final months. On September 8, an update from a family friend:

A few weeks ago [Laurye] was unable to walk or stand. She was unable to do much but lay on the couch and drink through a straw. Her doctors in Canada said it was due to a bleed, but could not confirm it. Her Decadron was increased and she got up and went to school. She had a PET and we are still awaiting the results. Unfortunately, the increased Decadron dose is no longer working.  Depending on the results of the PET, as to whether or not she will qualify for Hyperbaric treatment. She will have to go to a private clinic because the local MD’s have told her parents to let her go (pass away) and will not authorize any further treatment.

On September 10th, in Le Soleil, we hear:

The battle of the little Laurye [L] against the brainstem glioma, a rare and incurable cancer, is nearing completion. The girl who has awakened the sympathy of the population during two years of valiant struggle now living his last moments.

“Let yourself go, Laurye, I’m ready to let you go.” The voice full of distress, Sonia [C] courageously facing the imminent death of his daughter. “I asked her if she was ready to go to heaven. She said nodding,” tells the mother, experiencing immense pain.

Although Laurye’s awareness is intact, her physical condition has deteriorated significantly in recent days. She first stopped walking and talking and can now no longer eat.

Sonia [C] [was] torn from the bedside of her 5-year old daughter for a brief press conference yesterday afternoon to announce that a few hours, maybe a few days, remained in Laurye’s life. She [thanked] all those who supported the family morally and financially throughout his illness.

In the same article, we hear what the total amount that went to the treatment:

Founded in 2003, the Laurye [L] Foundation has raised approximately $235,000. The director of the Foundation insisted that the remaining approximately $ 10,000 cash will be used to fund research on glioma or will be routed to other foundations that assist sick children.

A staggering sum.

Laurye died on September 10th.

Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Briannah O.’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Briannah’s story*

At four months of age, after seizures and becoming rigid and immobile, Briannah O. was diagnosed with a exceedingly rare brain tumor, a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. The tumor was inoperable and eventually the size of a grapefruit. It’s typically slow growing and while usually benign, it occupies valuable real estate. In the first two months after diagnosis, Briannah had two shunts put in to relieve pressure from fluid accumulating in the brain and had a very, very brief trial with chemotherapy. According to one of Briannah’s websites:

2/11/07
This picture is her after the emergency ventricular tap that Dr. Moss did the evening that we arrived. She was still sedated here.

2/11
I took Briannah to the ER room at PCH Sunday afternoon. She was admitted into PICU. Dr. Moss did an emergency ventricular tap to relieve fluid from her brain that had been building up and causing her such great distress. Dr. Moss also wanted to test the fluid and make sure that there was no infection in it so that Dr. Shafron would be able to continue with the shunt surgery that she needed the next day.

In early 2007, the family was interested in going to the Burzynski Clinic.

Almost immediately, the family started to run into troubles with the Clinic. Brianna’s mother left a post on a message board on May 10:

We are all geared up to go to Houston for treatment but I am running into red tape from both ends. I have been in touch with the Burzynski clinic for 2 weeks now and am not getting any where. None  of my daughter’s doctors here are going to sign any documents that  legally bind them to the clinic and that legally links them to be a  FDA co-investigator! How did you people get this done? I told the B. clinic that my daughter’s doctors will do blood work and monitor  her but will not sign any thing. The B.Clinic people are making me feel very pressured like its my problem and that I need to work it out and yet they have not offered me a solution when I’m sure that they deal with this all of the time. Plus I have spoke with 3 different people and have gotten no where. What do I do now? Can’t I just make an appointment and fly to their and go from there. Can’t a doctor at there clinic do this for them?

The antineoplaston treatment can only be administered, per an agreement with the FDA in the mid-1990s, under the auspices of a clinical trial. Burzynski opened over 60 clinical trials and in the nearly two intervening decades has only finished one and published zero.

One of the problems is that after the training period of a few weeks in Houston, Burzynski shifts the burden of administering the treatments for months onto the caregivers. The fact that the administration of the treatment is in the hands of well-meaning amateurs may have contributed to a finding the FDA made earlier this year:

You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care. Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses between January 1, 2005 and February 22, 2013, according to the [trial number redacted] List of Hospitalizations/SAE (serious adverse events) [redacted] Overdose [redacted]/Catheter Infection report. Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.” [emphasis added]

Because people are administering this treatment at home, they need local physicians to take over the routine tasks of blood work and other local monitoring. It is not at all surprising to see that a patient would have a difficult time finding a knowledgeable physician refusing to work with Burzynski. When she says no doctor is going to “sign any documents that  legally bind them to the clinic and that legally links them to be a  FDA co-investigator,” it is ironic, since according to an argument by which Burzynski managed to cling to his medical license last year:

“Respondent’s ownership of the clinic and his self-designation as the clinic’s chief physician on some forms, his ability to hire and fire everyone, and even that the forms which state that he is in “charge of treatment” (as stated in the informed consent forms for patient A) is only evidence of responsibility under vicarious liability theory, given the fact that the medical records detail exactly what doctors provided services to these two patients and who was involved in the delivery of medical care to these patients.”

It sure sounds like someone knows it’s a bad idea to take responsibility for patients at that clinic.

The same day as that previous post, Briannah’s mother posted:

I did just speak with Barbara T. in Houston and she did explain about the importance of the 1572 FDA form that they have to have in order to  treat Briannah and I understand that. Now I just need to find a doctor who will be a co-investigator.

“Barbara T” was likely Barbara Tomaszewski, who was Burzynski’s business manager. According to Burzynski’s lawyer, during the period when Burzynski was indicted, she kept the clinic afloat:

“As the patient numbers started to decline, she came up with dozens of ways to cut costs and increase income. Some of the services that had been farmed out, like pharmacy supplies, were brought inside the clinic, and buildings were refinanced. She did whatever she had to do to squeeze or save every dollar she could.” (108)

I wonder how much of the current “everything but the squeal” business model of the clinic is a legacy of this woman?

Later that same day still:

Dr. Weaver with the clinic in Houston called me today. He told me that Briannah would need a doctor here in Arizona to evaluate her condition and get back with them and that it would have to go before their board before they could treat her.

I had no idea how hard it would be to get treatment.

Sure I could go into the problems that the FDA reported about how Burzynski’s institutional review board works, but who has the time? Luckily, there’s an entire Form 483 covered with numerous observations that suggest the board is unable to oversee a trial.

On the 17th of February, Briannah’s story hits the papers, as the family desperately scrambles for funds for Burzynski:

The [O family] and their friends and family are seeking financial help to get Briannah to Houston for the experimental therapy, which uses synthetic organic compounds called antineoplastons.

Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski originally developed the treatment more than 30 years ago, and has treated more than 3,000 patients with the intravenously injected compound, which essentially reprograms the brain tumor cells to die off and stop growing.

The procedure is considered experimental because Food and Drug Administration trials that have been ongoing since the 1990s are still under way. That also means it is a private treatment that insurance won’t reimburse. Just starting the treatment costs $20,000, and it can add up to as much as $200,000 over time.

Preliminary FDA trials show that of 226 brain tumor patients treated, 29.2 percent showed complete disappearance or more than 50 percent shrinkage of the tumor, 35.8 percent showed stabilization, while 35 percent had continued tumor growth, according to the clinic.

One wonders where these numbers came from and if they can be said to represent anything real. It’s hard to know since the FDA observed that 2/3 of the outcomes that they examined during an inspection were inaccurate:

Burzynski (as investigator, the subject of the inspection) “failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.”

This means that several patients who were reported as “complete responses” did not meet the criteria defined in the investigational plan, as were patients who were reported as having a “partial response” and “stable disease.”

At the end of April, Briannah has a shunt revision. The next week, she is up and bubbly, apparently healthy enough to travel to Houston:

The gift of little Briannah’s health comes at the perfect time, following a $22,000 anonymous donation to help start an experimental treatment at the Burzynski Clinic in Houston. Another $2,200 has been donated into an account established for Briannah.

But the struggle the [O family] began almost a year and a half ago, when their daughter was diagnosed with an inoperable and life-threatening brain tumor, is not over.

They need a local doctor to agree to be the “co-investigator” for Briannah while she is home from her treatments in Houston. And, in future months, they will need an estimated $7,600 per month to maintain the treatments.

Tammy said she is not a desperate mother grasping at straws, but a mother who has no other options for treating her baby’s condition.

The treatment is considered controversial in some medical circles.

This passage is simultaneously heartening and infuriating. The generosity of strangers is often amazing, and this is one of the biggest anonymous donations that we have seen since we started this website. Nonetheless, I am baffled that hundreds of patients have been looking for media attention to raise money for decades, and not one reporter has gotten off their backside to investigate whether or not their coverage of the issue would be a positive thing for the community until Liz Szabo put in months of legwork for her USA Today report, which appeared a few weeks ago. She and her editors should be congratulated for their brave decision to look more deeply into the Clinic, a courage that was recently honored with high praise from William Heisel on the Annenberg School blog: “Her story in USA Today, Doctor accused of selling false hope to families, is one of the best medical investigations I have read.”

On June 6th, a gallery of the family’s trip to Houston goes up.

On June 11, 2007, Briannah’s mom sent an email to a member of a now abandoned antineoplaston support group, who reposted it. The family had some connections in Houston (I think they lived there before), and after they flew down, spent some time reuniting with friends. Then they visited the Clinic:

Today was our first appointment with the clinic. We met with Dr. Burzynski and his staff of doctors and nurses. Everyone was most delightful and helpful. Dr. Burzynski was very forward in expressing the fact that the tumor Briannah has been diagnosed with is very large and that the therapy is a slow and gradual process.

The day did get hectic as it progressed because of processes that take time. She was evaluated and accepted for treatment.

Briannah has a 1pm appt. Briannah will start the antineoplaston treatment tomorrow.

We were told that the MRI that we had done in Phoenix was not the proper MRI. We are being told that we have to have another one done here and it will cost us out of our pocket because we are out of net work with our insurance! I quickly called Dr. Kaplan, who is Briannah’s nuerologist with Phoenix Children’s. He told me that I didn’t need another MRI. I agreed! Dr. Weaver with Burzynski promply called Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Kaplan promplty answered to help us. He is faxing over a letter to submit to the FDA requesting that they accept the MRI that we submitted so we don’t have to get another one. This is all about FDA protocal.

I have to admit that I got a little upset and was not happy about the MRI situation. I was never told by the clinic in all the times that I spoke with them over the phone that it had to be a specific kind of MRI. I was just told that I had to have an MRI with in 2 weeks of our appointment.

The one that we had done in Phoenix before we left was called a one bang and does not require that Briannah be put to sleep. It also is not as defined as the other ones are that require sedation and dye.

Dr. Kaplan stated that it is to risky to do that to her and that it could put her at risk for respitory infection. I have to say that I  agreed and am so glad that he helped us out with this.

At this point, I imagine that the family spends a couple of weeks learning to be independent caregivers for their daughter. Learning how to use the pump and prepare the bags. They stay with a couple who live near the clinic.

According to the local paper on 16 June:

[Briannah's father] will return to Gilbert on Father’s Day, leaving his wife and their two other daughters in Houston for the first three weeks of the treatment, which could last an undetermined period of time.

“We don’t doubt that the medicine is going to work on her,” Mark [O] said.

The treatment begins the same day that article runs. A scan posted in July shows the sheer size of this tumor:

scan

In August, the family is having a hard time keeping Briannah’s electrolytes under control. Her sodium levels are all over the place, and she’s experiencing the known side effects of antineoplastons:

Briannah’s sodium keeps going up to the high 140’s, so I have to disconnect her from the pump, but then her sodium plummets to the 120’s and will keep going down if I don’t do something. Her potassium is up and down too – 2.5 – 2.7. She has been doing so good for so long, but every time she gets her antineoplastons increased it causes her electrolytes to get out of balance.

She will have a seizure and fever of 102 or more every time this happens. I didn’t rush to the emergency room this time and she came out just fine.

The clinic said that they didn’t have a patient who’s sodium plummets like this before.

The 2 times before that we were disconnected we ended up in the hospital because no one knew what to do with her. She ended up having convulsions because the doctors didn’t listen to me and give her the sodium supplements.

All that needs to be done is give sodium/potassium.

At about the same time the Baby Briannah Foundation is incorporated.

On August 31 she had a scan. Two weeks later, the results are in:

I wanted to be sure and let everyone know including Mel and family that we just received Briannah’s radiology report from her MRI that we recently had done 8/31/07. There is no growth, which means, we have not had any growth in at least four months!!! The previous MRI’s that we had before we started treatment with Antineoplastons did show some growth.

This is the first MRI that we have had done since we started the Antineoplaston Therapy in June 2007. The report also stated that the ventricles remain dilated and have “minimally” improved since the previous study!!! This is great news to us, especially with all that we have been through. It is a small beginning, but it is a start in the right direction [...].

I am so grateful for Dr. Burzynski and his awesome discovery of the Antineoplaston Gene Therapy! I sincerely believe that because of these treatments Briannah is with us today and doing as well as she is.

One wonders how much of the improvement is due to the shunts that were fixed in April and how much this is to be expected from a slow growing tumor. There is also the question of how tumors grow–sometimes periods of stability just happen. Notice that it is not shrinking.

The local paper notes on Oct 8:

But since Briannah began experimental treatment in June in Houston, Texas, the youngest of Tammy and Mark [O]’s three daughters has experienced a lessening in the swelling and gained a lot of baby fat. For the first time, her MRI shows no growth in the tumor.

At this point, we’re going to guess that the improvement that we are seeing is related to steroids. Reduction in swelling? Gaining weight (for a baby that was failing to thrive before)? We’re guessing steroids. Burzynski’s patients are often treated with large doses of steroids. As the Clinic is basically a one-trick pony, there is no reason to suspect they changed their tune here.

Among the other revelations in this article, we learn that the treatment is costing $6,400 a month and that the little girl’s birthday in mid-October will double as a fundraiser. Also given the completely expected toxicities we saw above, the reporter still manages to open a sentence with the line: “The treatment, considered nontoxic….” I don’t think that the journalist did anything wrong, I just think that the family has a distorted view of what toxicity means.  

On the 11th of December, following another MRI:

I just received a phone call from the Burzynski Clinic with the most wonderful news…. Dr. Burzynski has gone over the MRI that we just recently had done and according to the radiologist report they have declared that the tumor has shrunk by 9%! This is only the second MRI that we have had done since we began treatment there.

We will take that!

It’s hard to take anything the Clinic tells a patient seriously when the FDA observed two-thirds of the reported clinical trial outcomes were apparently inflated. I’m not even sure how clinically significant that would be if it is an accurate result, especially as, according to the Szabo story, experts will disagree 40% of the time when when interpreting rare brain tumors. These results were reported uncritically in the local paper on 28 Dec. There is something of a vicious feedback cycle here. One must be completely and totally up front about the prognosis at all points with patients. They deserve that, especially when they are as vulnerable as parents as a child with a brain tumor. They have never had good news. ANY change, even “not getting worse,” is a HUGE victory, and expectations need to be managed. Yet the family reports:

“Right now, little Briannah is going to live a normal and a full life,” said [Briannah's dad]. “We’re just really overjoyed.”

This is, of course, what everyone wants. But is it likely? And when it is reprinted in a paper, it’s difficult to see how that hope could not be massively reinforced, making what comes later all the more devastating.

In Feb 2008, Briannah seems to be having a crisis related to her sodium levels. She may be experiencing salt wasting, which can happen when there is injury to the brain. Via a friend of the family, we learn on Feb 7th:

“Baby Briannah was moved to PICU yesterday because her sodium levels dropped dangerously low. My daughter told me last night that Briannah was on IVs and her sodium level had come up some. Tammy and her husband, Mark, have made what was a difficult decision for them; they have decided to insert a peg (g-tube) for Brianna’s feedings. She has been getting her feedings with an NG tube for about 2 years now. Providing her Sodium level rises to normal today, the Broviac (Catheter) and Peg surgeries are scheduled for 2 PM this afternoon. That will be 3 PM Texas time.”

That night, we get an update on what is happening from Briannah’s mother:

It is 9 P.M. and Briannah is still in the recovery room and will probably be going back into ICU just to be closely monitored.

Placing the broviac catheter was harder than the doctor thought and took longer to place. He had to go up into her jugular vein this time. The G-tube placement went very well.

The reason we were admitted into the hospital to begin with is because her catheter stopped working on us. It would flush and allow you to stay on ANP, but would not draw for blood. We worked with it for several days. We had to have it repaired the week before because it broke and was leaking. We were hoping it would open up some how. We eventually did an x-ray that showed the catheter had flipped up. When we were admitted we disconnected her from her ANP pump. I always tell the doctors to put her on IV sodium asap. Eventually they hooked her up to IV sodium and her sodium’s have come up to 129. They were down to 116 before. She is okay and expected to recover.

This child is clearly not on the path to the full normal life that everyone hopes for. And despite this trip to the PICU, the local paper reports in May:

Since the treatment began, mom Tammy [O] said the youngest of her three daughters has been happier and healthier than ever.

“We’ve been able to enjoy this year,” [Tammy] said. “It’s been wonderful. No trauma. No injuries.”

Further, and perhaps not surprisingly, Briannah’s development has been arrested, though by all accounts she is a happy little girl:

Due to the tumor and a surgery when it was first discovered, she still can’t walk but she actively interacts with her parents and sisters, kicks, sits up and speaks baby talk.

We also learn that the father is turning his DJ business into a fundraising vehicle for Burzynski’s treatment, and in early June, another fundraiser is held at a farm where guests pick peaches to raise money.

In August, we get another optimistic assessment from the local paper, as well as this description of the treatment:

Briannah’s tumor has shrunk 20 percent since she began the nontoxic gene therapy treatment at Houston’s Burzynski Clinic.

The definition of gene therapy that makes this description of antineoplastons accurate would also redefine eating a banana as gene therapy. While the family did share some scans, I can’t find any of the results of this treatment. Further, she is still having some serious issues:

While she’s beginning to briefly sit by herself, doctors don’t know how much Briannah can see, and she also has been having seizures.

It looks like the family took a two hour trip to Sedona right before Christmas.

On January 26, a post goes up on another patients’ website:

An optic glioma, the type of tumor that James has, is considered a “benign” tumor. How deceiving that word can be. Too many believe that it means that this tumor will/can do no harm. Yet, I write tonight with tears flowing and a heavy heart because sweet Baby Briannah lost her life tonight to an optic glioma.

(In fact, it looks like she may have died on the 24th.)

As the family described her passing:

With Pastor David Wright with us, the room filled with the sweet presence of the Lord, and Tammy’s ear to her chest, her little heart slowed and then stopped. While her dad and mom were holding her tight and smothering her with kisses, her spirit and soul escaped captivity into the vast glory of the Lord’s presence, and the wonders of heaven. [...]

Briannah, Mark, and I, received such excellent and outstanding care from all of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital staff. I could not have imagined being anywhere else. God had His hand on every event, and it was definitely a chosen destination for us.

The local paper described the last hours in more detail:

The fight included shunts placed in her skull to reduce swelling in her brain and, beginning in June 2007, an experimental gene therapy in which she was administered a synthetic organic compound through a tube.

It seemed to be working. The tumor was shrinking, and the once-emaciated Briannah had reached a normal height and weight, though she was unable to walk or talk.

Everything changed last week, when Briannah’s sodium level plummeted, causing her kidneys to shut down. She went into cardiac arrest twice.

“She left her body twice, and they brought her back after 22 minutes, and the second time after 18 minutes,” [Tammy] said. “That in itself is a miracle, I’m not kidding you.”

But eventually, [Tammy] and her husband, Mark, had to make the decision to take her off life support. “When I got to watch Briannah’s body deteriorate, it got to the point where it was easy to let her go,” [O] said.

It is difficult for me to reconcile the idea that the treatment seemed to be working and the poor little girl’s progression and death. We can say, however, that lot of patients have celebrated their fortunes while on Burzynski’s treatment when they in fact were progressing. One of the most scary things that we have found here is a pattern of descriptions of tumors breaking up on the inside and patients rejoicing, when the fact of the matter is that it is far more likely to be a sign of a tumor outgrowing its blood supply. And we’ve seen this for decades:

On February 2, the family celebrated the life of Baby Briannah, as she was known to the community that rallied around her. Her mother bravely posted an image from her daughter’s services on her website. This makes all the more galling the following post on the website:

staff

Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go tothehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong at the FDA so we can fix it and so this never happens again.

Burzynski Patient Ryan W.’s Story

*An appeal to encourage Congress to investigate this follows Ryan’s story*

In August 1989, Ryan W. was diagnosed with a thalamic glioblastoma, a grade IV tumor right in the middle of the brain. His prognosis was grim; his doctors estimated 6-9 months, perhaps, maybe a year with the standard therapy. (When patients exceed these estimates on Burzynski’s treatment, they are often touted by supporters as “successful treatment”, however the actual speed of progression falls on a bell curve, and outliers are to be expected.)

Beginning in October, Ryan was treated with 5 weeks of radiation. That treatment seems to have not had any effect on the tumor, at least according to an MRI in January. At the beginning of the new year, we learn that Ryan seems to be undergoing another trial of radiation and has had some complications, according to an announcement in a regional paper:

1/3/1990

MIDDLETOWN
The Fred Villari Studio of Self-Defense will hold a “kick-a-thon” Friday to raise money for the family of a 10-year-old Marlboro child diagnosed in August with a malignant brain tumor.
Students at the Route 35 studio as well as the Morganville branch are encouraged to attend with family members and friends, according to Anthony Russo, chief instructor at the Middletown studio. The goal is to perform the self-defense style kicks 100 times, and everyone participating is encouraged to solicit pledges of at least 10 cents a kick. Pledges will be recorded on a tally sheet provided for each participant.
Proceeds go to the Ryan Werthwein Fund and will assist the Werthwein family with medical expenses for their son, an identical twin who is currently undergoing a six-week radiation therapy treatment.
Complications from a surgical procedure caused Ryan to lapse into a coma lasting two days, and although he regained consciousness, he suffers from short-term memory loss, according to information prepared by the studio.
In Richard Walters’ 1993, Options: The Alternative Cancer Therapy Bookwhich slathers unearned praise on Burzynski’s antineoplaston treatment and is the most complete record of Ryan’s treatment, Ryan’s mother describes what can be the devastating effects of radiation:
“The radiation burnt out most of Ryan’s pituitary gland, stunted his growth, and hurt his mental functioning,” according to Sharon [W.], the boy’s mother.”
He was significantly shorter than his identical twin brother. According to Walters:
After reading up extensively on alternative therapies, Ryan’s parents decided to forego chemotherapy and take their son to Houston for treatment by Dr. Burzynski. “The doctors really beat us up over not doing chemo. We were discouraged at every turn from pursuing a safe, nontoxic alternative. They also told us Burzynski was a quack,” recalls Sharon.
Antineoplastons are neither safe nor non-toxic, nor can you really consider them to be alternative therapies to chemotherapy, as they are basically derivatives of sodium phenylbutyrate and are chemotherapy by any reasonable definition.
The known toxicities can be found on this recent patient consent form, a central part of any research protocol:
consent1consent2consent3
A recent inspection found that toxic events have often been reported by Burzynski’s patients, but that the Clinic has been slow to act on that information. For instance:

  1. Patients who had Grade 3 or 4 [severe or life-threatening] toxic effects were supposed to be removed from treatment. One patient had 3 Grade 3 events followed by 3 Grade 4 events. Another patient had 7 disqualifying toxic events before he was removed from the study.
  2. Burzynski did not report all adverse events as required by his study protocols. One patient had 12 events of hypernatremia (high sodium), none of which was reported. There are several similar patients.
  3. The FDA told Burzynski: “You failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care. Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses between January 1, 2005 and February 22, 2013, according to the [trial number redacted] List of Hospitalizations/SAE (serious adverse events) [redacted]/ Overdose [redacted]/Catheter Infection report. Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.” [emphasis added] Further, patient records show that there were many more overdoses that were not included in the Hospitalization/SAE/Overdose list.
Ryan’s mother reported at the onset of treatment:
“The American Cancer Society said they have an arrangement with the Hilton to keep rooms available for cancer patients’ families, but when we mentioned Dr. Burzynski’s name, they said to ‘forget it.’ The Corporate Angel Network, which boasts in TV ads how it flies young cancer patients around the country for free, refused to fly our son because the National Cancer Institute won’t let them fly Burzynski’s patients. The system is a disgrace.”
For at least 23 years, top cancer charities in the country have refused to participate in what is happening in Houston. More recently, Burzynski patient Kassidy M. was similarly denied a place to stay at Ronald McDonald House because of her intended course of treatment.
According to Walters’ book, Ryan began antineoplastons in mid-April 1990.
One month after the intravenous infusions were started, there was a major breakdown of the tumor mass, and from then on, it steadily shrank as the therapy continued. “It felt as if a miracle had occurred,” says Sharon. An MRI scan of the brain on May 15-after four weeks of treatment-showed only barely visible tumor remnants.
At this point it seems that poor Ryan has been through two rounds of radiation and some sort of surgical procedure. It’s not unreasonable to suspect that these treatments may have contributed to this progress.
In June, they are fundraising for Burzynski:
RyanW
What is endlessly frustrating is that these drugs were called “experimental” in 1990 and are still “experimental” 23 years later. A major red flag, especially when Burzynski’s lawyer said of Burzynski’s first trial:

[W]e decided to hit the FDA with everything at the same time. All of his current patients would be covered in a single clinical trial which Burzynski called “CAN-1.” As far as clinical trials go, it was a joke. Clinical trials are supposed to be designed to test the safety or efficacy of a drug for a disease. It is almost always the case that clinical trials treat one disease.

The CAN-1 protocol had almost two hundred patients in it and there were at least a dozen different types of cancers being treated. And since all the patients were already on treatment, there could not be any possibility of meaningful data coming out of the so-called clinical trial. It was all an artifice, a vehicle we and the FDA created to legally give the patients Burzynski’s treatment. The FDA wanted all of Burzynski’s patients to be on an IND, so that’s what we did.

Walters reports:
On November 1, 1990, Ryan displayed complete remission.
Yet, in 1993, when Walters publishes his book, for some reason, Ryan
continues to receive antineoplaston treatment, but the dosage is gradually being reduced. He wears a miniature infusion pump, carried in a waist pack, that injects antineoplastons through a catheter in his chest twenty-four hours a day. There is no pain or discomfort.
Ryan died in 1994 at the age of 14. This was 20 years ago. Antineoplaston treatment is still considered experimental.

Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again.