About TOBPG

Stanislaw Burzynski is a physician based out of Houston who administers a chemotherapy called “antineoplastons.” They have never, in 36 years, demonstrated efficacy or safety. Nonetheless, Burzynski charges patients hundreds of thousands of dollars for this unproven treatment. The way that it is framed is that they are entering “clinical trials,” but the man has never, ever published the final results of a single clinical trial. Instead, what we see is a string of abandoned trials–more than 60 at this point, none of them even at the stage that they might demonstrate efficacy. His only phase III trial, the type that would demonstrate efficacy, is not accepting patients as of this writing despite being approved for over 2 years. (Even though many recent patients seem to think that they are entering phase III trials.)

Of the thousands of patients who have gone to him and emptied their bank accounts at his feet, a very, very few have survived. This does not mean that he has cured them; in fact, when you look at the cases closely, you find reasons to doubt that he has cured anyone at all.  Of course, the few patients who have survived this shonky treatment have become full-time advocates of Burzynski, and he has acquired something of a cult-leader status.

From the position of an informed patient advocate, everything about the Burzynski Clinic reeks of medical charlatanry. He is not a trained oncologist, but he is treating cancer. He posits a novel mechanism for cancer (a patient’s lack of antineoplastons) that is unrecognized in the medical literature as a cause. His ANP is marketed as an alternative to chemotherapy, but he gives patients chemo cocktails mixed with “terrifying” doses of sodium phenylbutyrate, mixtures that have not been adequately tested for safety and which causes hypernatremia in his patients. He has sold ANP not only as a cancer treatment, but also as an HIV treatment, an unjustified action for which he was severely disciplined by the Texas Medical Board. Checks for donations that are meant to go “toward the continuation of the Clinical Trials and Research” are to be made out directly to “S.R. Burzynski, M.D., Ph.D.” He has initiated over 60 phase II studies over the decades and seems to have published exactly zero of them. Three independent investigations, published together in The Cancer Letter, concluded that his studies were “uninterpretable.”

An important sign of quackery is the depiction of the doctor as a lone genius fighting against special interests trying to suppress crusading work. This is, of course, bunk. What is routinely cited as evidence of a vast conspiracy against Burzynski is the routine prosecution of a run of the mill repeat offender. Nonetheless saying that he has sinister forces arrayed against him gives Burzynski an excuse to never produce evidence of efficacy that could be tested by an outside group.

There is something distinctly aberrant about Burzynksi’s supporter base, and a cult of personality surrounds the man unlike anything we have seen in other medical schemes. At the root of cults is a psychological dependence on the leader, and Burzynski’s cult nurtures his patients’ dependence on him by making them fear and distrust modern medicine, stripping away desperately ill patients’ hope in legitimate, tested therapies and substituting them with his “treatment”. Abominable.

Instead of evidence garnered from clinical trials published in peer-reviewed journals, Burzynski relies heavily on patient testimonies to peddle his wares. Testimonials are no substitute for controlled clinical trials. No matter how many testimonials Burzynski and his patients put forward, no matter how passionate and moving those stories are, no matter how grateful and indebted his patients feel toward him, the fact remains that no amount of bad evidence is equal to a single piece of good evidence. He has had over 35 years to produce that single piece of good evidence and has utterly failed to do so. This, however, has not stopped him from charging $30,000 for an initial visit to his clinic and $7,000 per month for treatment thereafter. At least that’s the quote that one of his most recent victims was given. (A curious side note to this case: the above cited article reports, “The [Burzynski clinic] has currently been approved for Phase III Clinical Trial for Antineoplastons treatment and Mackey’s brain tumor met the criteria to be accepted as a patient in the trial.” When you look at the entry for the clinic’s only Phase III trial at clinicaltrials.gov, the current status of that study is “Not Yet Recruiting.” What was this family told, I want to know?)

As you might expect, many people cannot afford the cost of Burzynski’s treatment, which routinely reaches more than $100,000, and when that happens, they often make desperate appeals to the public so that they can make the trip to Houston. A year ago, when Marc Stephens started going after critics of the clinic, after seeing the testimonials of patients who appeared in ad man Eric Merola’s infomercial Burzynski (reviewed here by a horrified surgical oncologist and patient advocate), and after looking at the collection testimonials on the Burzynski patient group website, I wanted to see an unbiased sample of Burzynski’s patients. When you select your sample group by outcome, you are going to produce a very skewed view of the treatment. (This is the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, essentially drawing a bullseye around a bullet hole.) We went to archival databases to see if we could the patients who appeared in the press begging for money to see Burzynski. When we did, we found that with a single exception, every damned patient we could find in the LexisNexis Academic database who had appeared in the press begging for money to see Burzynski and whose outcome we could find had died. When his supporters don’t select the cases you get to see, a very, very disturbing picture of his practice emerges.

If Burzynski has a cure–or even a viable treatment–it is a moral imperative that he completes a phase III clinical trial that can be reproduced by other researchers, otherwise all of the other deaths his treatment would have prevented are on his hands. If he is being honest about his treatment, he is apparently OK accepting responsibility for those deaths.

If you want to help protect patients, the best thing that you can do right now is WRITE about Burzynski, putting as many relevant search terms into your title and text as you meaningfully can. You can also make a point of linking to sites that have reliable information about what really goes on at Burzynski’s clinic. Don’t link directly to the man, his site, or his patients’ sites. We need to clog the channels that people usually use to reach this clown with reliable information.

[UPDATE: A new campaign has been launched to inform Congress of Burzynski's history and practices. Visit thehoustoncancerquack.com for suggestions about how to help end this unremitting nightmare.]

For information about this website or the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients, contact Bob Blaskiewicz. This site is not funded by any entity, and if anyone tried to sponsor it, we’d tell them to pound sand.

14 comments

  1. susangoodstein

    Thank you Bob for writing this blog. I wish everyone could see the reality of the Burzynski scam. You are so right,thirty years is too long. Keep up the good work.
    Regards,
    Susan

  2. Mark

    Thank you so much for maintaining this blog. I’ve always been disgusted by ‘alternative’ pseudoscience, but these stories are absolutely heartbreaking. These ‘people’ who live opulently by swindling the desperate are nothing short of evil.

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  4. Mary

    Bob, while I have absolutely no experience dealing with the Buzinski Clinic, I am more then appreciative of the time & trouble you’ve gone to in creating this blog, and I’ll tell you why. My husband is a Stage III Pyriform Cancer survivor (indeed, they consider him cured) he received surgery & treatment at one of the top rated University hospitals for his particular type of Cancer.
    Even with this, there were times of great difficulty because of problems that happened, most were pretty easily resolved, a few not so much (I won’t go into detail here) overall, though, we’re still pretty astonished & over the moon with both the results & the dedication of the amazing personnel involved in his case. He also participated in a few medical research studies, as there had been no updated published studies done since the mid 1990′s.
    Now to my main point. Unless you’ve been the loved one & caretaker of someone with a serious illness and spend 24/7 caring for them, you have no idea what it’s like. It’s absolutely vital for people to read stories such as you’ve put here & understand the absolutely criminal existence of people such as Buzinski. Even with my own personal experiences, I can’t imagine the grief of a loved one or victim who has dealt with this man (and anyone associated with him). When you are watching a loved one suffer, even the most intelligent & savvy of us consider or will do almost anything to help them. My hope is that you, along with others who expose this man for what he really is, will succeed in getting him shut down.

  5. Shane Quinlan

    You deserve a medal for having to write this. It’s harrowing enough to read about all these people conned by that fraud and mountebank.

  6. Cindy Cook

    My boss and friend was diagnosed on mothers day 2013 with grade IV glioblastoma. In the past week I have spent every spare moment researching the merciless disease. I’ve seen so many sites praise this man/clinic before I found yours. I tried to look up names of people who praised the clinic to see if they were still survivors but some didn’t have last names and some from other countries.

    My massage therapist even mentioned the clinic and said she had only heard wonderful things. This is all terrifying. ..to think there is so much hype over this man with no proof of results.

    I read each tragic case you wrote about and my prayers go out to these devastated families. As a parent with a dying child I’m sure one would do anything and everything possible to save their life. And this man feeds on that despair. What’s is more horrifying is he has an entire team of clinical “professionals” that promote his propaganda. How do these people sleep at night? It’s unconscionable that he has been allowed to scam the world out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Thanks so much for your time and dedication to exposing this moral outrage. Please keep up the good work on this heinous crime against humanity.

    CC

  7. lakishajohnson

    Thanks Bob for writing this sad but true story

    FYI for 2013
    Buzynski is still alive and kicking and being honored by the Catholic Church in 2013!!!

    Kiran Schmidt claims on his web pages: .’ Dr Burzynski , join the Medical Order of the Knights Hospitaller .. his work honored by the Catholic Church by being initiated as …“Commander of the Knight-order of St.Gregory the Great’
    With photo and signed documents to prove!!
    More quackery, who can tell!!!

    http://lakishajj.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/and-for-my-next-act-dr-buzynski-honored-by-the-catholic-church

  8. Stacey Huntington

    You have never ridiculed a patient, Bob. In fact, I see you as a strong advocate for these patients. Whoever is accusing you of this is probably one of Burzsynski’s shills. If the man was on the up-and-up and doing something to be commended, he and his staff would not employ some of the questionable methods they do – such as dishonest billing practices, charging exorbitant and inflated prices on absolutely every medical service or supply they provide to patients, and never once publishing the results of his clinical trials. And I ought to know . . . my daughter was (unfortunately) a patient last year.

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