Jacqueline T. was about 7-years old when she became a patient of Stanislaw Burzynski. On Sept. 11 of 2007, a just a few days after her diagnosis with a high-grade brain stem glioma, the entire family was on their way “to look at medical options in Houston Texas.” This is very, very fast for a patient to start at the Clinic. My understanding is that in order to qualify for antineoplaston treatment, a patient has to have been on conventional therapy first. So, that’s the first red flag here.
Her parents started a website, which is no longer available but lives on at archive.org. Most of the info I have comes from that website.
On Sept. 14th (man, that was fast!):
Yes we have started treatment. We have chosen Burzynski’s Clinic in Houston to try and fight this horrible tumor. He uses an Antineoplaston treatment that has shown more promise than anything we could find out there. Although I’m not going into the complete statistical details here, basically its results give us a possible survival rate of 40%. That would be a 40% chance of living up to 5 years. Much better than the chemo/radiation rates of 7% to survive up to 2 years and the initial 3 months without treatment that we were 1st told about. This type of tumor is extremely hard to fight. The medical profession only measures survival rates up to 5 years, after that they feel you’ve been cured. I am working with insurance to see if we’ll have partial or full coverage but don’t know if it will cover this treatment or not since the treatment is considered experimental?
A 40% survival rate is absolute bunk. If it were the case, he could have published any one of his 60+ trials, leaned back in his cushy chair, and waited for the goddamned Nobel Prizes to start rolling in. Oddly, he hasn’t.
Jacqueline is on steroids, and the family is going through the weeks of training that all of the ANP patients go through:
We expect to be here for the next couple of weeks and then return every 8 weeks for a one day checkup. During her daily IV treatment, Julie and I are learning to do all the treatments at home which include setup of the IV medications, blood drawing and IV pump programming with daily dosing and volume instructions.
Jacqueline is now put on a low sodium diet, because the ANP packs a HUGE sodium load. On the 18th, her mother reports Jacqueline’s also on a low sugar diet, and she’s not happy about it:
We are having to put Jacque on a low sodium diet, so she not only has to deal with being away from home, having “head cramps” (headaches), nausea, and an IV tube running from her body, but she is also attached to a machine that is so heavy that Daddy or Mommy has to pick it up to walk with her everywhere. Now she can’t have anything she likes to eat! It’s total misery for her. She wakes up crying for pizza, pancakes, waffles, brownies, and the list goes on. Any word uttered on the TV, or food sign on the freeway reminds her of what she can’t have. The steroids make her crave food 24/7, and her treatment makes her feel as if she cannot get enough to drink. Sunday, she begged me in tears, to go to the vending room, for just “three sips of coca-cola, or just one itty-bitty brownie.”
That thirst is characteristic of ANP treatment, though, I don’t think you have a sense of what it looks like until you’ve seen someone go through it, like Luna P. On top of that, Jacqueline has thrush from the steroids and her mouth is full of a fungus. She’s also in a wheelchair, as her legs failed her in the Burzynski Clinic lobby and, according to her mom on the 21st, her left side is paralyzed.
On the 23rd, while the family is still in Houston, Jacqueline’s father reports that he has been in a car accident on the highway. Some teenage girls plowed into his car after traffic stopped. He has a concussion, it seems, but his family, he says, can’t afford to have a man down at this time. Jacqueline’s mother, that same day, reports that Jacqueline is not going outside and is struggling. The people at the clinic, however, say that she is doing “unbelievably great.” Unbelievably, I think, is the operative word. The Clinic staff seems almost incapable of delivering bad news, and patients routinely report that signs of getting worse are signs of getting better. That should be the clinic’s motto instead of, “First, do no harm.”
We also learn that up until this point, no doctor had agreed to oversee the trial. We rarely if ever see oncologists agreeing to work with Burzynski. It’s often pediatricians, neurologists, and others who may not be fully aware of the standard of care or of Burzynski’s well-founded reputation:
We called Jacque’s pediatrician (I don’t know if I need to keep his name anonymous or not, I will hold off for now.) He will take care of her and help us through this clinical trial! Yeah!!!! We were afraid we might have a hard time getting a physician to agree to have her as a patient and see her once or twice a month. The responsibility is extremely difficult. The clinical trial would not let us go home unless we had a physician. It really took a load off our shoulders when he agreed to do this. This is just one less thing we have to worry about. Jac’s pediatrician has a great personality, and he has been very helpful as well as kind to us. We really appreciate him.
As we’re very jaded at this point, having vicariously witnessed so much unqualified suffering at the hands of the indifferent here, that we may be reading too deeply into this, but it sounds to me like the mother may have had doubts about the Clinic:
When I look at Jacque I know she is fighting a hard battle and we must believe that she will win. Dr. Burzynski and Dr. Weaver have been so attentive to Jac. I feel like if she wins this fight then they also win. It’s in the institution’s best interest for this to work! This helps me be more positive.
On the 28th of September, the family arrives back home.
On October 3, Jacqueline’s mother reports:
We returned home on Friday. I have trying to get as organized as possible. Jacqueline’s headaches are more severe. We were told that as the dose goes up (and now it is bag 1 up 10 a day) she may get worse before better.
Getting worse is just another stop on the road to Wellsville. We’ve heard that before from the clinic. On the next day:
I am so afraid that the antineoplastons are not going to work. I haven’t mentioned this on the web site but her Tumor is 5.0 x 3.8= 19.0…I was reading the post and someone mentioned size and realized I don’t even know how big it is. Do you have any idea? I can’t hardly talk to our Dr. in Texas because I can not really understand him with the accent. The oncologist at the hospital here said she had maybe 3 weeks to 3 months. It takes the antineoplastons 4-8 weeks to see if it will work.
It seems that the community has been mobilized to raise funds for Burzynski, as a local dojo holds a kick-a-thon for Jacqueline.
On the 10th, because of the steroids she is on, Jacqueline is on the verge of a diabetic coma:
Today (Wednesday 10th) we had our first PET scan. Jacqueline’s glucose levels were so high 2 days ago that the doctor told us she may go into a diabetic coma! We were so upset because she is on such a strict diet. The DR’s in Houston told me that the levels are high because we had to raise her steroid intake. We did that last Friday because Jacque’s headaches were bad and the Tylenol 3 wasn’t cutting it for the pain.
By the 23rd, Jacqueline’s ability to swallow is going:
Her exam by her local pediatrician showed her liver enlarged (he said he will use it as a baseline. Then we got a call from Houston say take her off the antineoplastons and get her on heavy antibiotics and raise her decadron to 4mg x4. She does not want to eat, I can’t get her to drink, she wants me right by her. She won’t go to her bedroom but instead wants to sleep in our living room floor. She has been moaning and achey. [...] I HATE giving her these high doses of decadron! She seems so lifeless. I won’t take her to a hospital, they treated us like shit when she had a blood clot in her port. Plus she can’t be around all those germs. We are 5 weeks and 3 days into antineoplaston treatment. We are 7 weeks 4 days from diagnosis. They told us 3 weeks to 3 months realistically. But, I don’t know, is she dying? Am I over reacting? Should I call in hospice?
I have spent the last 30 hours watching her suffer. The saliva, the aches and pains. I called hospice. Yesterday I had her pediatrician call an order for oxygen and suction machine. [...] I never thought it could get this bad and ugly even when I tried to prepare myself.
Our pediatric doctor would not release an ok for morphine to Hospice, but after 5 hours, and Jac totally suffering, gurgling throwing up nothing, just in pain, she had morphine at 4:00 here, and now I see she is sleeping comfortable. I just ask my husband if he felt a relief and he said yes and finally I feel some type of relief.
Despite Jacqueline’s condition, and because, it seems, she insisted on it, the family manages to have a magical Halloween–two hours out of the house. They apparently go down the street to the neighborhood “haunted house” and she plays with the other children as best she can. She went as a fairy:
My heart would cringe every time she mentioned it. Halloween is her favorite holiday (besides Christmas –of course!), and I just dreaded the fact of the holiday because she is so sick and she is in a wheelchair. This was a huge dilemma for Charley and I. She just assumed that we would go over to the [I. family's house] as we have for the last 7 years. It was just expected. I did not want to do it because I was worried about her health, but I have to tell you she pulled strength from somewhere and insisted we go. With Charley’s support as well as Liz (our Hospice nurse) I reluctantly agreed. I am so glad I did! She was a night fairy! We went over and she played foosball with her dad as Joseph and the boys watch them play. To me it was a complete miracle! She has not colored, not played a game, she has not wanted to do anything, and she is essentially bed ridden. She wanted to play on the trampoline and it s so hard for her to accept being in the wheelchair. She cried a little and begged her Daddy and I to let her get on the GLIDER! We even had a moment of trying to see how we could get her on! Of course we couldn’t and she was disappointed. It’s difficult to see her want to be normal and her body not let her. I still have the hardest time knowing that 2 months and 1 week ago she was running, playing, we were taking great vacations, she was going to camp.
This was an especially important night for the family to have, and we’re glad they did. On the morning of November 6, Jacqueline died.
As best we can tell, the antineoplastons did nothing but worsen Jacquelines suffering and drain her family’s pocketbooks. There is nothing here remotely like improvement.
For reliable information about clinical trials, visit to clinicaltrials.gov. Please contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which cares for sick children even if they can’t pay. Unlike Burzynski.
Nolan L. had just had his 9th birthday in November 2002 when he started having crippling headaches. As his mother remembered a year later:
I was concerned about Nolan’s behavior problems at school and was meeting frequently with his teacher, the principal and the vice principal. We had no idea that a monster was lurking inside his head, ready to strike.
I attributed the crankiness, complaints of headaches, and other subtle symptoms he began displaying as emotional distress because of the turmoil within our family. But sometime in October I made an appointment with his pediatrician. And it was at that time that the first fateful MRI was scheduled.
I vividly remember the drive to Sacramento with Nolan’s dad, clutching the films containing that ominous looking huge white spot in the center of his brain. Despite the dread I felt, I was still completely unprepared for the actual prognosis:
Brain Tumor. Highly malignant. No cure. Death imminent.
Nolan was with my mother in the other room, thankfully. I remember the wails coming from deep within my soul. I remember thinking I was going to faint. I remember feeling as if I was being turned inside out.
My baby, my little boy, my son!!!
The prospects were, of course, grim:
Conventional medicines and treatments offered no cure. Nolan was subjected to six weeks of intense radiation treatments and a round of chemotherapy, which would only offer a slight increase in his life expectancy.
On November 25, Nolan began the first course of treatment, Temodar and radiation. The hope was that it would stay the growth of the tumor, but his headaches continued after this stage of treatment ended in January 2003. February’s MRI brings bad news. The tumor continues to grow. In fact, his pediatrician makes arrangements for Nolan to enter hospice. Nerves in his face have been damaged by the radiotherapy and he has partial paralysis there.
Parents who end up choosing Burzynski are rarely interested explicitly in prolonging life–merely prolonging a child’s life for a matter months, anything less than giving them a full life, in fact, is an unacceptably unthinkable failure. Burzynski, at a steep price, holds out the specter of a cure. This is at the expense of vetted therapies and palliative care, which really do reduce suffering. Sadly, Nolan’s parents decide to go to Texas.
On the 22nd of March, a third MRI shows more growth, and he has lost some sensation in his limbs on his left side. Nolan and his mom are on the plane to Houston the next day. Over the next few days, Nolan has surgery to put a tube in his chest to receive the drugs, which will be infused continuously over the next several months. According to the family:
On March 25, Nolan was enrolled in a phase II government-approved clinical trial of the antineoplaston infusion therapy, which has shown great promise in treating the most difficult forms of brain cancer.
The phrasing here is somewhat misleading, though I understand the hope that it embodies. One should not understand that any drug in a phase II clinical trial is by definition unproved. A decade later, antineoplastons are still unproved, and the study that Nolan was enrolled in remains unpublished to this day, even though the family had to raise the money for him to enter the trial. In fact, antineoplastons are unpromising as ever.
On March 26th, Nolan starts on antineoplastons. He and his mom remain in Houston until April 17th, after they have been trained on how to use the pump, administer the drugs and fend for themselves. He remains on steroids.
An MRI on May 20th reveals that the tumor is stable. This is what someone might expect even for an untreated tumor. When a tumor is small and has, say, access to unlimited nutrients, it can and does grow exponentially. But as the tumor becomes bigger, the time between doublings increases, so what you have is a flattened ‘s’ shaped curve, illustrating Gompertzian growth. He is dizzy and has a lot of pain in his joints, the latter because of the steroids.
The MRI on July 15th shows that the tumor has grown by 13%. Even though Nolan has been on the ANP longer than he was on tested and approved chemotherapies and the treatment is clearly not working, the Burzynski Clinic recommends upping Nolan’s dose, keeping a paying customer on treatment.
Just three weeks later, on 6 August, Nolan has a number of seizures and goes into the hospital for two days. The family lowers the dose of the ANP. On the morning 23rd, Nolan is only semi-conscious and taken again to the hospital. By the next morning, he is unable to breathe on his own, his mother reports:
The kind team at Santa Clara Pediatric Intensive Care Unit kept him alive until his father and siblings could arrive at his bedside to say their last good-byes.
The next year, Nolan’s mother reflected on her experiences:
This time last year we were in Houston, Texas, undergoing those antineoplaston treatments. Even though the treatments are not something I would choose again, I did receive the huge blessing of renewing a friendship with my wonderful friend Lauri [...] and her beautiful daughters (and awesome husband). They have been a continued source of support and encouragement to me this past year, and I know the bonds we share will carry through to eternity.
Perhaps, then, it is to be expected that nobody from the Clinic was singled out to be thanked when Nolan’s ordeal ended.
For reliable information about clinical trials, visit to clinicaltrials.gov. Please contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which cares for sick children even if they can’t pay. Unlike Burzynski.
Taylor M. was 2 1/2-years old on January 11, 2002 when he was diagnosed with a glioma wrapped around his brain stem. He was weak on his left side, mute, and right his eye was crossed. The prognosis for this cancer is almost (but not quite) uniformly dismal, as we have seen several times on this website. The doctors at several different hospitals could offer nothing more than about half a year. This is, of course, an imprecise science. Really, survival times from diagnosis are tracked along a bell curve, and physicians’ interpretation is not set in stone, but rather a likely extrapolation of the current situation based on their past experiences. Long term there is very little variation in the outcomes, however. He was slated for chemo and radiotherapy.
According to an article in the Daily News which appeared on 21 April of that year:
Hope came in January, the day before Taylor was to begin chemotherapy, when a friend phoned with stories of success at the Burzynski Clinic. Taylor’s parents researched Burzynski and liked what they found – stories of children who went on to lead happy lives after their tumors shrunk.
Of course that’s mostly what you find–stories. This case offers a sad irony about how reliable the stories you find on the Internet are.
We don’t see what is happening to Taylor in high resolution, but in February 2002 he went to the clinic, like thousands of other families have. He had a shunt planted in his chest for the antineoplastons, the name of the chemotherapy that Burzynski was peddling at the time. But we hear on a post on a message board:
When we got to Texas to see DR. B our Doctor of 13 years said he can’t sign to watch over Taylor’s Blood work if he’s going to be on the treatment. Well, I wasn’t too scared God has shown us the way so far so I called my insurance comp to find a new Doctor and they told me about 15 names I just called one he is the head of pediatric oncology at Stony Brook University and he said, Yes that he’ll take Taylor as a patent and that he would sign the papers we needed to have sign so we can come home with the treatment for Taylor.
According the Daily News article, the treatment was costing Taylor’s family $10,000/month. (His dad told the reporter he’d be willing to sell his house to pay Burzynski’s fees.) He was on treatment for 3 years.
What precisely happened during those three years is unclear. In April, according to the doctor overseeing Taylor’s treatment in New York, the tumor had not changed since it was detected, and some of the pressure in Taylor’s head has been relieved, but the doctor says it could be due to the steroids that he is on.
In February 2005, on the message board, Taylor’s father makes a bold proclamation:
In that same post, Taylor’s dad made a bold proclamation:
I just got some GREAT news my wife was watching a couple of kids for one of [Taylor's doctor's] nurse and she came over to pick them up tonight. She told us that DR Parker is now giving Patent DR B’s treatment as one of there choices. This is big. He sees how great Taylor is doing and that his Cancer is NO MORE that God and DR. B of course. I will be on the news very soon. There is a lady for Entertainment Tonight that is [in] love with Taylor. She did the first news report 3 years ago when my company did a fund raiser and she now is going to do a new story about Taylor And Dr B. We’re going to fly to Texas and we’re going to get DR B’s treatment out and show them how well Taylor is doing. [emphasis added]
On Taylor’s page at the Burzynski Patient Group, his dad conveys the same information:
Taylor is cancer FREE and doing great thank God and DR B.
We contacted the doctor who was overseeing Taylor’s treatment, Dr. Robert Parker, to see if the treatment was or ever had been offered as a treatment in his department. We received the following reply:
The quote is only partially accurate. I did in fact tell parents, when asked, that one of our patients was being treated at the Burzynski clinic, that he was “stable”, and that we were obtaining requested lab monitoring studies at SB and forwarding them to the Burzynski clinic. I made no recommendations one way or the other regarding the therapy but did tell parents that it was ‘controversial” as there was never any published verification of the results claimed by Dr. Burzynski. We did not endorse the treatment and were not administering the therapy at [Stony Brook], but merely helping those families that chose to pursue this line of treatment by providing some degree of laboratory and medical monitoring.
We get a more accurate picture of what was going on with the tumor on June 16, when Taylor’s dad returns to the message board:
Hi everyone. Taylor has always been doing so well so I never put anything bad on here. Well, we need your prayers for our little Taylor. Taylor had a MRI last week and for the first time in three years the scan showed that Taylor’s tumor had grown 16% and I’m very scared it never change before it never decreased or increase and his been doing so well we don’t understand. I’ve been getting about 4 to 5 calls a month for parents of other children that want to bring there kids to DR B’s and I’ve been telling them that my son is Cancer Free and now this what do I tell these people now when they call me?? I’m so sick don’t know what’s going to happen I can’t lose this battle after all these years of him doing so good. [emphasis added.]
It appears that the claim that the cancer was gone was, understandably, the father’s fondest hope, perhaps his preferred outcome, and I have no doubt that in some way he really believed it. And how many people did he recommend the Clinic to based on that rather too optimistic interpretation? Maybe a hundred, at that rate? This is an object lesson in why patient testimonials are no substitute for hard data about efficacy. Most likely, the tumor was slow growing and the ANP did nothing. The steroids controlled the intracranial pressure (which may have been caused by the massive sodium load Taylor was carrying while on treatment).
I wonder if Taylor has been transferred off the ANP at this time and is on phenylbutyrate, the prodrug of antineoplastons, which Burzynski also sells at his in-house pharmacy. At least it sort of sounds like it as on 28 June we hear:
Thanks were going to increase his pills to 40 pills a day and just waiting for 4-5 weeks to do new MRI. God will bless him I know it.
On July 14, we hear what the Burzynski Clinic prescribes. More of what’s not working:
Taylor is doing OK he can’t talk too well or walk too well but DR b said that he can stay on pills he now is up to 60 pills a day poor little guy hates taking them we make a liquid. Thanks for your prayers very much needed right now.
A few days later, on the 19th:
DR’s in Texas are going to put him on IV and steroids and he’s not doing so well may God Bless him and all our little children bye for now.
Back on the IV, Taylor deteriorates even more, as we hear on Aug 23:
I need help Taylor is doing very poorly and I don’t know what to do he can’t walk or talk and I’m very scared that this is the last stage and he’s going to die on me and I can’t do anything else to help him he gets up at less 8 time at night to pee and drink but he cries the whole time he’s doing so. I don’t what to do I need some guidance PLEASE I don’t know what is next he was walking but he was dragging his left leg badly and yesterday he fell and now his right leg is just as bad as his left leg was and his right arm is not working if anyone can talk to me I don’t know what to do I’m losing this battle and don’t know how to handle it.
On the 29th, we hear that his right eye is now crossing. The next day, the local doctors are recommending radiation. ANP has failed. The father refuses and Burzynski agrees, which is incomprehensible given the trajectory that Taylor has been on. By September 24, Taylor can no longer sit up unassisted, hold his head up, talk, or move anything but his left arm and hand. He is still on Burzynski’s treatment.
On October 11, we hear the results of the most recent MRI, and the situation is dire:
It’s not good at all. His tumor had grown 50% in 5 weeks and they’re taking him off the treatment and we have to start radiation and chemo soon.
Usually, this is where the story would end. As far as I can tell, the antineoplastons did nothing to shrink the tumor at all. There is no reason to think that Taylor’s long survival was anything more than the type of outlier that you’d expect. But there is an interesting twist at the end that answers a question that I had wondered about. In January, after a number of surgeries for Taylor, his father says he’s waiting for Taylor to be released from the hospital so they can go to Mexico for treatment–apparently this radiation is the end of the road in the States. Other Burzynski patients and alt med patients chime in, warning Taylor’s dad about Mexico. They are clearly tuned into the presence and warning signs of quackery in Tijuana, which is as far as I can tell indistinguishable from that in Houston. Cognitive dissonance is extremely powerful.
Taylor died at 7:00AM on 18 May 2006. As of this writing, his “success” story is still hosted on the Burzynski Patient Group website, over 7 years after he died. The clinical trial that Taylor was in and his parents paid for over the course of several years remains unpublished.
For reliable information about clinical trials, visit to clinicaltrials.gov. Please contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which cares for sick children even if they can’t pay. Unlike Burzynski, who demands his money up front for obvious reasons.
On April 8, 2005, Erik M., 44, was reading a book to his 4-year old daughter, but the words looked wrong. He went to the hospital and had a CT scan, which revealed what was a stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor. The prognosis was grim. The doctors thought he might survive anywhere between 2 months and 2 years. They started chemotherapy and radiation.
Two weeks after chemo treatment began, Erik had an awful, awful headache, which led to his getting an MRI. The tumor had doubled in size. His oncologists had little to offer (they said treatment was “not a cure, but it would prolong his life”), so the family decided to go to the Burzynski Clinic. On May 13, according to his Caring Bridge site:
[T]he family rolled into action getting Jay’s medical records faxed to Houston, Texas to see if he can get into an FDA clinical trial. Approval on that could come as early as Monday! We are all very hopeful. Please pray for a speedy answer.
On the 14th, we get an update and a quote from the Clinic:
As many of you know Monday will be a big day as we are hoping we will hear that Jay has been approved to participate in a Glioblastoma FDA clinical trial in Houston, Texas. For more information on this trial search under the Burzynski Clinic, Houston.We are also waiting to hear if Jay has clearance to fly. If he is not cleared to fly we have considered transporting him by motorhome. If anyone has info on motorhome rentals or some other alternative we would love to hear from you. We his family have begun to jump headlong into several agressive fundraising campaigns as this clinic trial is not covered by insurance and the cost of this potentially live saving therapy could go as high as $150,000.00. We have already laid the ground work by setting up a benevolent account to help us in this endeavor.
Donations can be made at any Key bank to
The Healing For Erik Trust
C/O Key Bank Washington
On the 16th, they heard that Erik was accepted for the trials:
An answer to prayer – Jay has been approved for the clinical trial in Houston Texas – at he Byrzinski Clinic. I say clinical trial, but the results have proved to be miraculous for some.
This last statement, of course, is yet to be determined, as the trial that Erik paid so much to be in has still not been published. On the 18th, they arrived in Texas and they visited the Clinic the next day. On the 20th, they report:
Wow what a day! Today Erik received his I.V. catheter and began receiving treatment. He is being infused every 4 hours with the Burzynski A10 and AS2-1 therapies for Glioblastoma through a pump that is conncected to a tube that leads directly into an artery via the catheter located on his chest. We are so grateful to all of the Doctors here who have listened to us and who have realized how important it is to Jay/Erik to start treatment right away. Yesterday, we were faced with not being able to start until Tuesday of next week, which would have given us a few days lag time and would have put our arrival time back home past THE most important day he is looking toward and that is to see his kids graduate from High School on June 4th.
By the 23rd, Erik is starting to feel the side effects of the ANP. They are finishing up in Houston early, on June 2nd:
It has been busy time for the Houston crew the past few days, learning as much as possible before the trip home today. For the most part, Jay/Erik has tolerated the treatment well with a few minor reactions which are being corrected through desensitivation doses and increases to his regular medications.
We find out what the “regular medications” are on another message board several months later:
Erik tolerated the treatment well – including huge doses of decadron (steroids) and dilantin (for seizures). We came home June 2nd.
One of the physicians at Texas Children’s Hospital said that Burzynski patients often are on huge doses of steroids. At about this time, it seems that Erik’s wife had a hard time with his new condition, and she left.
On 7 June we get an update:
We are hoping that the kids can come up from time to time and spend a week or two up here to be close to their dad. Jay/Erik is doing well with treatment and is almost at his “theraputic dose”. We will be having an MRI in Mid June so pray that we see a significant reduction in his brain tumor. Jay/Erik is having a tough time emotionally from time to time, so if you’d like to call him he would love to hear from you.
On 15 June, he still is having severe symptoms:
After a trip to the emergency room late last week and after a couple of minor seizures, we backed off on the treatment for a couple of days but are back on track – just increasing dosage a bit more slowly. Erik seems to be tolerating this method just fine. [...]
Keep your prayers coming. Next MRI is being scheduled this week for somewhere between June 20 – 27. We will know more about Erik’s response to treatment after this 1st MRI.
The first MRI suggested that the tumor size had decreased slightly, by 1%. This is unlikely to be therapeutically meaningful. Tumors usually grow exponentially at first, doubling very quickly while they are small and there are enough resources (blood, energy) to sustain it. But then tumors’ size/growth tend to level out. So just seeing a tumor no longer growing exponentially does not mean that it has stopped or that a treatment has stayed its growth. The increasing intervals between doubling times in tumors is called Gompertzian growth. You can even see some contraction from the opening of a necrotic center, where blood can no longer reach. So what the family is reporting is very likely an artifact of the tumor’s natural unimpeded evolution. He also seems to have developed a major rash, one of the side effects or antineoplastons listed on the patient informed consent form. In fact, the doctor monitoring him back home is convinced that this is a side effect of the ANP:
Our local co-operating doctor was sure the rash was caused by the antineoplastins, which convinced Erik, too.
He goes off treatment for ten days, returning to it on the 6th of July. And then, on July 7th, Erik goes into the hospital with an infection and fever. Because a hole has to be opened in the patients’ chests to receive the ANP, patients are susceptible to infection. At this point, he is taking “16 mg [of decadtron] four times a day,” and is experiencing dexamethasone psychosis:
I don’t know if any of you out there have experienced “decadron psychosis”, but we had a raging case. Suddenly, [...] the family were accused of causing all the emotional problems, and there was a suspicion that we were conspiring behind his back with the doctors and with each other. We did not understand what he was going through, etc.
Apparently, he took himself off of treatment when he heard that the tumor has slightly shrunk, a decision that may have been influenced by his mental status (?). The family, however, determines that he will stay on the Burzynski treatment.
On 13 July, we see that he’s back on treatment and in a lot of pain:
Despite a raging dilantin rash, we began treatment, and got through only doses, when Erik awoke with excruiating pains in his knees and ankles and a slight temp of 101. Dilaudid, steaming towels, Tylanol, more diaudid and finally 3 ccs of decadron IV didn’t phase it – and since, by this time, Erik ( 6’2″ and 244 pounds) was so lethargic that he could hardly communicate, much less walk – I had to call 911 and have an ambulance take us to the hospital. More Delaudid IV dulled the pain – and the temperature went to 103.
While he’s in the hospital, they catch an incipient case of pneumonia and nip it in the bud. But the family also reports:
In the middle of this, a new MRI was taken – and comparing it to the one two weeks ago, which showed essentially no new tumor growth – this was the same, with the exception of a scary spot that looks like a new tumor, growing in an area that has access to spinal fluid – and could take that course to multiply in the spinal column. Since this is still in the area of “suspicious but not confirmed”, we have not told Erik about it – only that we need to re-take the MRI for clarity because there was some movement that blurred things (which is true).
At this time, Erik is trying to stay off treatment. He wants to feel better. His family wants him to keep going.
On July 18th, during blood tests he starts to feel discomfort in his chest. A trip to the ER later reveals that he has blood clots in both lungs and he starts on a blood thinner.
By July 29 he is still not back on treatment, and he has had a talk with his family:
I talked to Erik this morning, and think I finally understand why he has decided to end the treatment. Despite what must be an actively-growing, large GBM, he was very clear about how he feels. Erik had a particularly bad time with decadron psychosis – becoming paranoid, aggressive, confrontational, etc. – (at one point, he was at 16 mg. every six hours) – and in the last weeks since his dosage was slowly dropped to the current level of 6 mg., he remembers how he was, how he treated everyone, how desperate and unhappy he felt. He has two small children – 6 and 4. He doesn’t want their last memories of him to be that decadron-driven tyrant that he often became. Right now, he’s sleeping well at night, and has the stamina to be up and around most of the day.
Erik died on August 19th, but the horror didn’t end. His mother wrote (and it seems the situation with the wife was more complicated that we thought):
Although we are comforted by the knowledge that we did everything we could to save him, we will always be convinced that, had he stayed on the Burzynski treatment, the outcome would have been different. (His fast-growing tumor had shrunk 1% after five weeks on the treatment.) More than ever, I believe that the treatment will work, if all parties are committed to it – and are willing to weather every storm. The person Erik loved never believed in the treatment, didn’t want anything to do with it, and, ultimately, convinced him that it was killing him. Now we are in the position of supporting this person, as she holds the key to Erik’s precious children and our ability to ensure their future – rich with memories of him. I would like the antineoplastin group to know about what has happened to Erik – and to send them prayers in his memory – and encourage them to stay with the treatment.
On the basis of a single test well within its margin of error, the family is convinced that the treatment was working. This is the psychological trap that snags people on unrealistic hope. What’s more abominable is that Burzynski, an unrepentant intergenerational quack, has not only drained the family’s coffers (it sure looks like the wife is left with nothing here as she needs to be supported), but his unproven, unpromising therapy, which clearly had a huge negative effect on the patient’s quality of life while not extending the duration of that life, has torn this family apart at a time when they would be best served supporting one another.
For reliable information about clinical trials, visit to clinicaltrials.gov. Please contribute to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which cares for sick children even if they can’t pay. Unlike Burzynski.
Another patient being told getting worse was getting better.
7-year old Samantha T.’s story begins on 2 December 2004, when she has had headaches for a couple of days, some vomiting, and then ataxia–she was tilting to the left and unable to keep her eyes straight. Her vision was also blurry. Her family kept a website, parts of which are preserved on the Wayback Machine.
The diagnosis was a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a condition that is extremely dire with a fatality rate of almost (but not quite) 100%. The early indications were that the previously unnoticed tumor had developed a bleed. It was inoperable. She was out of the hospital in a few days, and the family decided to avoid chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They rejected the grim reality of their daughter’s situation in a 9 Dec post:
Thursday, December 9, 2004
We had our first meeting with Dr. Khatib, oncologist. He informed us that the course of treatment for Samantha was based on “Quality of Life” and not on a cure. He told us about the different chemotherapy options. We have decided against radiation and chemotherapy.
While steroids had been able to control some of Samantha’s symptoms, they were unable to wean her off them for surgery in February as they hoped. Very early on in the process, this family joined an antineoplaston message group, but they did not get very active until about 16 May 2005, when they posted:
We had learned about antineoplastons early on our research; however, we soon dismissed it after getting negative feedback from doctors. However, after getting the testimonies from some of parents of former patients, it is clear that antineoplastons is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Samantha has been 29 of the last 30 days in the intensive care unit at Miami Children’s Hospital after undergoing a failed endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) and a subsequent shunt to treat the hydrocephalus. Also, she underwent a tracheostomy and gastrostomy to help her breathing and eating. Just last night, she was finally moved to a room and was able to leave the bed for a ride on a wheelchair. We expect to be going home after her blood work comes back negative for bacterial infection she contracted in the last few days. We are going to Houston as soon as the MRI shows no more bleeding in the tumor.
On June 28, a family friend posted an email to the message board, which reveals that the family arrived in Houston on 5 June. She received a port in her chest for the ANP treatment on the 14th, and she started the ANP at the Clinic the next day:
Every morning Samantha, Tabitha, Adrienne and I go to the clinic to have Sammy examined by the doctors, receive the new dosage of the treatment that she gets every four hours through a portable pump and to get training so we may care for her when we are away from the clinic. Samantha is in stable condition, responding well to the treatment and keeping her spirit up. We expect to be home no later than July 10th.
The disease seems to have only progressed. On the 1st of July, Samantha was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital having seizures. A CT scan was done and compared to an MRI from May 31. According to Samantha’s dad, the clinic commented on this:
-Necrosis present in the center of the tumor: Dr. Jurida at the Burzynski Clinic is optimistic about this observation since it indicates that the cells in the center of the tumor are dying. They will review the CT-Scan from the TCH and provide us with feedback on Tuesday.
While it’s not impossible that the tumor was breaking down in this manner, it is far, far more likely that the tumor had outgrown its blood supply. This is a pattern that we have seen among the patient testimonies, that getting worse is a sign of getting better. This particular diagnosis appears over and over going back at least two decades:
- We first noticed this pattern in the story of Amelia S.
- The family of Haley S heard this (also, see the clinic’s heartless reaction to a stroke that the child had).
- Burzynski gave the same diagnosis to Justin B’s family in 2006.
- We see a similar cyst in Leslie S.’s story (2006), and it nabbed Burzynski an extra $7,500 before she died.
- We see it AGAIN–as far back as 1994!–in Cody G.’s story.
- And finally, in the most grotesque horror show I have ever written about, Burzynski himself tells the family of Chase S. the same thing.
Despite the rosy interpretation of the Burzynski Clinic, Samantha died the very next day.
Dear Friends and Family:
It is of great sadness to inform you that our Sammy went to heaven yesterday July 2nd at approximately 8 pm. Tabitha, Adrienne and I will be flying to Miami today.
Samantha, your smile will be with us forever. We love you and miss you! God bless your beautiful soul.
A few months later, the family was still crediting Burzynski with a success even though he had absolutely failed their daughter:
Hello to Naomi and family. I am the mother of Samantha [T.] I am sure that you have heard of her. Sammy was also active and a loving 7 year old when we got the life crashing news. I also believe (that was my daughters word) that this tumor can be taken away. Sammy turned 8 on Dec.31,2004, a month after being told of this terrible tumor. Her dad I and I went on a leave of absence from our jobs for seven months. My mom also stayed with us.
The antineoplastons was working (I believe) when we had a cat scan done on Friday the day before Sammy went to heaven it showed cells dying.
It is amazing that we have seen this so many times given the tiny sample of patients that we have managed to uncover so far. Also, it explains how families can excuse the man who betrayed them (all the recent ANP patients paid for clinical trials that remain unpublished).
Note: This is a repost of an earlier case.
Wayne Merritt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Sept 2009, only 11 months after his wife, Lisa Marie, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. His prognosis was grim by any standard, as Lisa Marie reports in their Caring Bridge journal on Sept 29, 2009 (unless otherwise indicated, the source of this story):
However,.. she made it very clear that this type of cancer is not curable and the chemo treatments would be for the duration of the disease. He would take a treatment for 2 weeks in a row,.. and then be off for 1 week. We asked her bluntly about pronosis with and without treatment and were told “less than 6 months without treatment” and “6 to 12 months,.. maybe as much as 15 with treatment”. It all depends on how the chemo drugs affect the growth of the tumors. There is no way to predict if the drugs would be successful. This is all weighing very heavy on us. We are totally exhausted, emotionally and physically. We just feel numb inside.
On October 2nd, they have settled on the Burzynski Clinic:
Written Oct 2, 2009 3:54pmMuch prayer,… much research,…. much discussion…. has led us in the direction of The Burzynski Clinic in Houston Texas and their method of treatment. We have found an inner peace about this program that we had been unable to feel about previous programs we’ve researched. IT’S EXPENSIVE! BUT, what price can be placed on the life of someone you love!?!?!
The family reports that they were attracted to the Clinic on the basis of its success treating Wayne’s disease:
“They claimed to have had success with Pancreatic/Liver Cancer patients! Up to 5 years of survival, we were told. Wow! 5 years sounds like an eternity when you’ve been given only 6 months!!!!”
The family drives cross country to the Burzynski Clinic in Houston, where they have their first appointment on Oct 8th:
Written Oct 8, 2009 6:41pmWe saw the doctor today. Actually, we saw three doctors today. Dr. Burzynski being one of them. He was updeat and positive about treating Wayne, although he made no promises. He admitted that pancreatic/liver is a tough one. He said the treatment would either help fairly quickly,… or it would not work at all. He will keep a check on the progress very closely for the first couple of months,.. and if he is successful we should see the tumor growth slow down, stop, or even shrink.
They had been expecting to be placed in a clinical trial, as Lisa Marie describes in an email to this site:
“He was not a part of the clinical trial. We were told he would be…. Until we got out there. Then we were given a whole different regimen.” [emphasis added]
They gave us a list of contacts. The sheet contained 4 names of pancreatic patients, 1 would not allow you to contact them, and out of the other 3, the earliest diagnosis was in March of 2009! Where are the people that have survived for 3 years, 4 years, 5 years!!!!???? Heck, even 1 year would have been nice!
In an update on Oct 15, we learn that a PET scan has found tumor activity on pancreas and the liver. They appear on the “gene-therapy” track that the clinic offers instead of the ANP track:
If you are interested…. this is the list of medications…. some of you have asked me. 1) Amino Care- developed by Dr. Burzynski 2) Brain Longevity – developed by Dr. Burzynski 3) Xeloda 4) Sodium Phenylbutyrate 5) Zolinza 6) Nexavar 7) Rapamune 8) Avastin (given through IV)Two out of the three genetic markers have come back….
HER2 was normal
VEGF was very high
EGFR we will get results tomorrow…..
Again, please…. keep us in your prayers concerning our insurance! They do NOT want to help pay for this treatment…. due to the fact that even though these meds are FDA approved,… they are NOT approved for use as being prescribed by Dr. Burzynski. All treatment so far is out of pocket,…. And our pockets are not very deep!
After they return home to Georgia, we receive an update that reveals that there the Burzynski Clinic has not given the Merritt’s an accurate understanding of what lies ahead for them and that they find themselves staring up at the foot of a mountain of debt:
Written Oct 27, 2009 7:50pm
It is with a heavy heart that I deliver the following news…..
We had an appointment with a local oncologist this morning. We went there to get blood work to fax back to the Burzynski Clinic and to set up the infusion of Avastin that he was prescribed to have every two weeks by Dr. Burzynski. They did the blood work without a problem, however when the doctor came in to talk with us, she stated that she would not be able to give Wayne the Avastin infusion…. And that no other oncologist would be able to either. They are not allowed to administer drugs not approved for a particular diagnosis, this makes them liable. She stated that even if she could administer the drug, it would be completely out-of-pocket for us. She stated that the insurance would not cover it, and even had her office check to be sure. AND on top of that,… she said even if we wanted to pay the approximately $8000 for the treatment every 2 weeks,…. She could not assume the responsibility of drug reactions that could occur, which she said were many.
From the first day we went to the Burzynski Clinic, we were pushed into one drug after another, with the costs mounting to great heights with each one added. We had really hoped that a miracle would happen,… either the genetic tests would determine that Wayne did not need to be on some of the drugs,.. or he would only have to take some of the drugs for short periods of time,… or insurance would come through for us and some of the cost would be covered. That has not happened, and the local oncologist says it will not happen. She had her people check and only one medication is approved and covered for Wayne’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We also confirmed this by paying our local pharmacist a visit,.. and they said the same. So,… we now feel any statements made by the Bursynski Clinic concerning insurance payment/reimbursement was just them blowing smoke our way,… to the tune of $20,000 out of pocket plus travel and lodging costs. [emphasis added]
These unexplained, unexpected fees are TITANIC:
We’ve determined that to keep Wayne on this course of treatment would cost us between $28,000 and $30,000 per month for several months, plus travel costs to Houston every 2 weeks to receive the Avastin infusion, because we are unable to get it here. All of this is just not possible. We were told and expected… $15,000 for the first, initial visit/tests,.. and $4000 to $6000 each month in medication. We could have found a way to handle that, but that got blown out of the water!!!!! We feel we were grossly misled.
We are saddened,… crushed,…. confused,…. feeling like we have ran into a solid brick wall face first….. trying to catch our breath and figure out what our next step toward treatment might be. [emphasis added]
The family is rocked by these developments, and they disappear from radar as they recover and regroup. We hear about what has been going on in the interim in early December:
Written Dec 1, 2009 9:31am
It’s been a while since I updated the website, I know, however…. After our last blow to the gut by the Burzynski Clinic… it took us a little while to get our feet back on the ground and clear our minds enough to think clearly as to what direction we should take.
We have decided to go with The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston TX. We’ve spent days gathering all the documentation they needed to review his case. It is being reviewed now, and we are waiting to hear as to whether or not they think there is any form of treatment that will be beneficial.
Written Dec 3, 2009 2:58pm
We got the phone call from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center yesterday, and it was not what we had hoped. Because of the treatment recieved at the Burzynski Clinic, Wayne will not qualify for any First Round Clinical Trials. Since M.D. Anderson is a research hospital,… dealing exclusively in clinical trials, they stated that they would not be able to treat him, nor would any other clinic, hospital, doctor dealing in clinical trials. His only choice now, according to the medical community, is conventional chemotherapy. Wayne does not want that.
Merritt family’s grievances at this point include:
–Burzynski gave my husband standard chemotherapy medications along with the long list of other meds that were supposed to work in conjunction with each other. We were never told that two of the medications were conventional chemo medications. AND one medication that they charged us over $2300 for,.. we found out from our local pharmacy that we could have purchased it for around $170 from them.
–SO…After we stopped with [Bruzynski's] treatment….We were told that he WOULD NOT BE able to take part in any first round clinical trials, because he had taken chemo medications, no matter how small the dose, or how short the duration. WE WERE NOT TOLD THIS UP FRONT.
–We contacted several facilities, including The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Clinic. None of which will see him because of the treatment he received at Burzynski Clinic.
So according to the family, the Burzynski Clinic grievously wronged them in several ways: 1) they vastly overcharged them for common medications; 2) they treated him with conventional chemotherapy (despite all the whooping and hooting by Burzynski supporters about how his treatments are “all natural”) without revealing the full implications of that chemotherapy (apparently denying them informed consent); 3) denying them informed consent, the Burzynski Clinic limited Wayne’s future treatment options; 4) by making Wayne ineligible for experimental treatment, the Burzynski Clinic has impeded research into an intractable and deadly disease.
Everybody suffers from this type of behavior, especially pancreatic cancer patients, who need research into one of the deadliest cancers.
As I think you will agree, the Merritts were completely within their right to make their dissatisfaction with clinic heard in any way they saw fit. And, god bless them, they did. They set up the website BurzynskiScam.com, where they conclude, “In our opinion, the Burzynski Clinic is selling false hope at a price no common person can afford!”
Under normal circumstances, that’s where the story would probably end. At the end of 2011, however, a PR guy named Marc Stephens, who had been hired by the Burzynski Clinic (apparently to improve his online reputation), started issuing quasi-legal threats to bloggers around the world. Stephens went so far as to threaten a teenage blogger in Wales by sending him images if his own house (the only possible interpretation of this is “we know where you live.”) It was written up in the international press:
And he didn’t just email them badly worded threats, he actually phoned them at home. According to an email sent to this site by Lisa Marie, she put him in his place:
Marc Stephens was the one who contacted me. He was very, very rude and pushy. HOWEVER,…. I told him, “I have had breast cancer and faced death, my husband has pancreatic cancer and is facing a death…… after all that…. there isn’t anything you can do or say or threaten that will scare me! And short of a court order… and jail time, I will not be removing the site.”
He did not call back… but I heard that he had been let go by BC. If they have hired another guy…. I’m sure I’ll be hearing from him as well. He will get the same response.
Note: This is a repost of an earlier patient case.
Luna P. was 18 months old when her parents noticed that she was quite unwell in early August 2008. They took her to the hospital and over the course of the next few days she was diagnosed with an ependymoma. Eleven hours of emergency surgery took a hard toll on Luna and left her very weak on her left side and unable to swallow (she was fed through a tube after that). Conventional therapy was very hard on Luna, but in December 2008, the tumor had shrunk enough that the doctor could attempt surgery, and they went through a course of dangerous surgeries over the next few months, which Luna tolerated fairly well, according to her parents’ website. But the tumor kept growing, and this made them desperate.
They met with Anthony Michalski, their consultant in pediatric oncology at the Great Ormand Street Hospital. This interaction and the collaboration of the pediatric oncology department at GOSH was partially documented in the BBC 2 film, A Tough Line. When they review scans following her string of surgeries, the entire team–an entire room of specialists–agrees that the tumor, which is now compressing her brainstem is recurring and that the current treatment is not working. Michalski wants Luna to go on etopocide to prolong her life; a cure, while possible, would likely not be the ultimate outcome. They agree to go on the meds, but when no physician in the UK can offer them a cure, they find Burzynski on the Internet.
In so many of these cases, we hear the parents of children with cancer describe their gamble as an all or nothing game. Either physicians save their child or fail their child. There is no in between, and their desperation is understandable. However, there are halfway points, and while they will feel unacceptable to the parents at the time, there is such a thing as palliative care, which reduces the suffering of everyone involved, especially the patient. It is at this point of abject misery and desperation that Burzynski springs with what he calls “hope.”
In my years working on sketchy claims, I have come to realize that there are two things that anyone can sell, and people will buy it eagerly. The first is flattery. The second is hope. And there is no limit on the price you can exact from desperate parents who are looking for the latter.
And he always tells them exactly what they want to hear. According to Luna’s website:
There is no more treatment that can be done in the UK. We went home and cried for several days then we looked at Luna and thought hang on she’s not crying we cannot give up she has fought so long and hard and not a day passes that through all of this she hasn’t smiled. So we searched and searched asked questions and somehow found contact with another family who’s daughter had exactly the same disease and discovered there was something out there.
A treatment call Antineoplaston therapy which has had amazing results in the US. We have to try this.
The cost to meet the Doctor for assessment is £20,000
If Luna is accepted the treatment then costs £50,000 a year.
This is absurd. There are limited cases where a patient might expect to pay to be in a clinical trial, but the types of trials that Burzynski is doing certainly don’t qualify. Most pharmaceutical companies, when they are developing a drug, offer patients care and treatment free of charge because the patients are volunteering to put their bodies on the line. Burzynski does not technically charge for the antineoplastons, but he charges for everything else that could possibly be related to ANP–visits, phone calls, consults, etc. This does not resemble the business model of someone who expects to eventually make a return on an approved drug, and remember, if he is genuinely going to cure cancer, he is going to be able to charge whatever he likes. The fact that innumerable other startups get their drugs to market without B’s revenue stream is deeply, deeply suspicious.
In late May, and early June, Luna’s story was in the media, in The Sun, in the Watford Observer, and the Sunday Express as the family was actively raising money for Burzynski.
At the end of July, 2011, the family arrived in the United States searching for a cure. By the end of August, back in the UK, they knew that they would be in Houston by September 12.
The traditional treatment seems to be having an effect, keeping the disease from growing. It is an “effective agent,” perhaps the best possible outcome at this point. Nonetheless, the family presses ahead fundraising for Burzynski. They raised £100,000 for Burzynski in a mere 8 weeks.
They report to their consultant in the UK after their trip that Burzynski told them that he has 30% of patients have a good reaction, using the metric of “stable disease.” This is criteria is problematic, though. According to a site review at Burzynski’s clinic:
“Moving from protocols to results, I am surprised by Dr. Burzynski’s statement that stable disease is a positive outcome. That runs contrary to established criteria for trial design. In the context of phase II trials, which are short-term studies, stable disease is not reported as a positive outcome.”
After this consult in the UK, Luna’s doctor remarks,
“But what you hear quite a lot is, ‘how do you know that he or she is going to be ‘the one [who has a successful 'miracle' treatment]? … And the phrase that makes my heart sink is ‘We’d never forgive ourselves if…’. Actually, it’s not about them forgiving themselves. It’s about them doing the best for their child. And the focus should be what’s happening for the individual child rather than parental emotions. It’s tough because it’s so understandable [...] that you are going to do everything in your power to hunt down the last chance of cure, but where that becomes a futile exercise is a difficult call, a difficult line.”
This is the point that an ethical, concerned doctor takes away from a professional lifetime of caring for children, something that Burznyski seems to have never considered. (It apparently doesn’t fit his business model.)
On October 10th, the family posts a photo of themselves in front of the Burzynski Clinic. As best I can tell, a lot of patients take the same photo. It’s like being forced to watch a horror movie again and again.
Only one week later, however, on October 17, the message goes out:
Little Luna is currently in hospital and not too well. Our thoughts are with all of you xxxxx
So quickly does Luna’s condition deteriorate it’s difficult not to think about how quickly Rachel M. nosedived this fall after starting ANP and how groggy she was. According to an interview with Luna’s mother in the Watford Observer, the treatment put Luna in the hospital:
However, Mrs Petagine said the treatment at The Burzynski Clinic was actually killing her daughter.
She added: “The treatment was – what was happening – was actually killing Luna because it put this pressure on her brain stem.”
Once Luna was on the Burzynski treatment, her sodium level went insanely high. Her REAL physician’s reaction to this news, which was captured on film by the BBC, tells the whole story about what a horror antineoplastons are:
This is much the same deadly side effect that nearly put Adam M. into a coma. Antineoplastons are toxic chemotherapy. A patient informed consent form for one of the ANP trials (dated from last year), included the following as a partial list of ANP’s side effects:
- severe or life-threatening increased sodium concentration in blood;
- risk of death;
- difficulty arousing;
- 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;
- irregular heartbeat;
- decreased white blood cell count;
- slurred speech.
This goes on for 3 pages. The quantities of water that patients need to drink (I’ve seen up to 11 liters a day) is obscene.
At a checkup at GOSH, that Luna is in a sorry state is immediately apparent. She is chugging water incessantly throughout the clip and slobbering uncontrollably. No matter what a Burzynski supporter says, this is a potentially toxic treatment and its terrible effects are written all over this little girl. (I should note that this disturbing film is really important to understand the horrible choices that parents are forced to make. I recommend it, lest you think anyone can take writing about these issues glibly. You can’t.)
By February of this year, the ANP has proved to have been a resounding failure. Burzynski, just like with Adam M., tries to get them on his ridiculous “gene-targeted” therapy; it’s basically a Chemo Colatta, apparently mixing drugs that have never been tested together, often applied to cancers that they have not been tested on, but don’t take my word for it:
Luna and her family have been talking to Doctors in the US at the Clinic, who have agreed it is unsafe to put her back on the Anteneoplaston Therapy because her tumour is so close to her brain stem. They have however suggested they put her on a treatment called Gene Targeted Therapy. This is where they take a sample of the tumour and in a lab test it’s genetics and test what drugs will work against it. Then then will give those drugs to Luna. The family are very excited because they knew the Anteneoplaston could eventually be too much for Luna, with possible fatal consequences and of course they are desperate to cure her. The Gene Targeted Therapy is having amazing results in adults so we pray it will do the same for Luna. We now need to continue to fund raise so the family can start the treatment and carry on with it. Any fund raising ideas please email us via the website. Thank you x
Charging $30,000 to start up (again, according to Adam M’s wife) and $20,000/month thereafter for off-label drugs selected via the genetic equivalent of palm reading, the Burzynski boys are shameless. For an illustration of a patient who is on this course of treatment, see the case of Denise D.
From this point on, it is uncertain to me what their relationship with Burzynski is. They seem to have continued fundraising but were working with doctors in Boston.
It is with a heavy heart that we write this update. Despite battling against all the odds over the last 3 years it saddens us to tell you Luna is losing her battle. Lucy and the family took her back to GOSH on Friday after she appeared to be deteriorating in front of their eyes. A CT scan gave the devastating news that not only had the tumour grown but that it now appears inoperable and beyond treatment. The family have been told to take Luna home and cherish the time they have left with her. The picture here shows Luna, her siblings and cousins enjoying a family day for their Popsies birthday. The family continue to show unprecedented strength and dignity throughout and we have nothing but admiration for them – especially Luna x
They carried their daughter very, very far. Her father ran a damned marathon for her. These parents did everything that their instincts told them to do.
On August 8, 2012, the sad, sad news came that Luna had died:
On behalf of Lucy and Mario It is with great sadness that we share with you that our Beautiful Luna fell asleep very peacefully with mummy and papa holding her tight to become a shinning star, and we thank her for all the wonderful memories she leaves with us, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your support and love you have shown us in everything that you have done.
On the 16th, the family–and the whole community that sprang up around her—said farewell to their daughter.
Her family has continued to memorialize their daughter, and I do hope that they continue to press Parliament for more funds for brain cancer research.
After reading so many stories of so many patients and their families, you learn a vast empathy. Every time you start a new patient story, if you are not carried along by the power of the emotions attached to every decision that these families make, something is wrong with you. This is a story of a magnificent woman who died too soon. She she was young, only 50, but her children were almost all grown and as you read her story, you have the sense of a major character being yanked unceremoniously from an otherwise complete narrative.
Maria V.‘s daughter kept a blog of their experiences, starting with their trip to Burzynski Clinic. Maria had stage 4 uterine leiomyosarcoma, a very rare cancer which had metastasized to her lung, liver and bones.
Maria and her daughter flew into Houston on 13 Nov 2011. On the 14th they are at the Clinic, and it’s interesting to get a number of close-ups of the photos adorning the walls of the clinic. They are completely self-serving. One is of Albert Einstein, and features the quote: “Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds.” Another one is of Louis Pasteur and it reads, “Nobody knew his name when he got started either.” This difference is that both Einstein and Pasteur, of course, published their results. Pasteur was a master experimentalist. Einstein made extraordinary claims who won over the scientific community when others were able to observe what he predicted. Burzynski, of course, is neither. Most doctors will not work with him, and despite his 60+ clinical trials, he has only ever finished one (a completion batting average of .015). He’s published none of them. When you consider how many patients have paid to be included in those apparently unpublishable trials, you realize the magnitude of what is happening in that place.
Right away, we get a sense of what is going on, as the family is in the waiting room, where they met a patient from Georgia with bladder cancer:
She sat down next to my Mom and in true [V.] fashion my Mom looked over at her and asked, “What’s your problem?” she said it in a sweet way of course. The lady proceeded to tell us about her hardships and was soon called into the Dr.’s Financial Dept. When the woman came out, my mom noticed right away that she was upset, the woman’s brother went to get their car and when he left the woman burst into tears, right away my mom ran to her and started comforting her and telling her it would be ok. I swear it took all the strength I had not to burst into tears at that very moment! It was like watching two injured puppies console each other. I could hear my Mom whispering to her to be strong and I had to look away because one of us had to keep it gangsta.Later my Mom told me the woman was crying because she couldn’t afford the treatment.
We hear that the family can afford the treatment but there’s this:
Today was hard but filled with hope. The doctors definitely had a plan of action and offered us options. I look forward to the days that follow. I know there are people out there that think we are crazy for spending our entire life savings on this without a guarantee, I used to be one of those people but when the person you Love most on the planet is told to go home and die you will go to any lengths and spend any amount of money for another shot.
The next day, Maria begins her “gene-targeted therapy.” This is an untested chemo cocktail based on a blood test which is the genetic equivalent of palm reading:
On a technical note, Mom began her first gene targeted therapy today. She’s taking a medication called PB, it obviously has a longer name but that’s the acronym,that attacks tumors on a cellular level and makes it easier for other medications to kill and break up the tumor. Her new doctors are approaching her disease with gene targeted therapy. Their goal is to stop and shrink her tumors. Once they get her blood and caris results back they will choose medications that match up with the markers present in her blood and design a specific treatment just for her. I have a good feeling about this.
Burzynski’s definition of gene-targeted therapy is so broad that even eating an orange could be considered a type of gene targeted therapy, because metabolism reacts with the products of gene expression. Of course, no matter how “targeted” it is supposed to be, you always have to buy Burzynski’s phenylbutyrate. Of course there is always a cheaper alternative available through Ucyclyd Pharma in Hunt Valley, but patients are apparently encouraged to buy it through the in-house pharmacy.
On the 16th we get the photo of the exterior of the clinic, the same one that so many patients have put on their blogs. And then money becomes an issue, including the bizarre practices of forcing patients to buy in house meds:
The very first drugs they prescribe you at Burzynskis you have to buy there, after that you can get prescriptions filled by your local pharmacists and hopefully your insurance can pay for it. Today, my Mom was given an injection for her bone metastasis, One injection once a month is, are you ready for this, brace yourselves, 3,300 American dollars! ONE INJECTION! This is apart from what she had to pay to get started and that’s not even ¼ of the medication she will eventually be prescribed. Her Blood markers showed that she has a lot of very active HER 2 receptors and will eventually be prescribed Herceptin and that only runs about 500 dollars A PILL, one single pill!
My heart breaks every time we go into the financial office but like I tell my Mom, I don’t need an inheritance I need a Mama Bear! If the treatment works we will find a way to pay, nothing is impossible. There is no way I can let my Mom die because we couldn’t afford it. To break the tension and make my Mom laugh I tell her she better start getting ready to sell some tamales!
The nutritionist was telling us that 70 percent of cancers can be prevented with nutrition alone. WOW. Basically people with cancer should avoid all red meat, eat 5 small meals with healthy proteins and complex carbs, also 1/3 cup of nuts is recommended and a wheatgrass shot every morning.
So far MB has been feeling good, she’s been holding up nicely and responding well to the new meds. She is such a trooper, taking up to 6 pills every two hours. The pills are the doctors special concoction, they refer to them as PB but they really are the antineoplastons in pill form. The doctor has cleverly found a way around the FDA by prescribing them for off label uses. Sneaky doctor;)
One of our nurses, Amanda, took a liking to us and made sure to bring over Joan, Joan has been fighting stage 4 colon cancer for 5 years, MD Anderson told her there was nothing more they could do so she came to Dr. Bs and is THRIVING! After only 2 months her tumor markers have dropped 70 percent! She said she’d never seen such a drop at MD Anderson,We’ve noticed a trend so far, everyone we meet is stage 4,they have been told, by their oncologists, to go home and make the best of the time that they have, they get a kick in the ass and a “See you later…but probably not”, by “modern medicine”.Ironically, what Dr. B is doing with his gene targeted therapy, seems a million times more modern and advanced than what we get at home.
I made this video in anticipation that I would be receiving the antineoplastons. Apparently after spending over 30,000 here I found out that the Antineoplastons are only reserved for brain cancer patients who have already undergone chemo radiation. FDA put this restriction on the Burzynski Clinic, so any other cancer patients are BASICALLY ONLY GETTING THE TRADITIONAL ALLOPATHIC TREATMENTS OF SYNTHETIC ANTINEOPLASTON PILLS THAT DID NOTHING FOR ME. HOWEVER I CAN SAY THAT THIS WAS PART OF MY PATH AND EVEN THOUGH I WASTED MY MONEY HERE I HAVE TO SAY THIS PART OF MY PATH LED ME TO WHERE i AM NOW. [...]
MBs doctor’s in TX called today and urged us to start chemo again ASAP, they said MB has a very narrow window of time to get it done before it’s too late and her body is to weak to take it. WOW, [J] has purposefuly been wasting our time, she’s not retarded, or maybe she is, she must know about this window but never bothered to tell us.
Today, I rubbed lotion on [Maria's] back and saw the toll cancer has taken on her body. She looks like one of those starving kids in Africa. Her arms are skin and bone, her belly is bloated because of the tumors, her skin is thin because of the meds, her hair is gone and her legs are swollen. When she takes off her shirt I’m shocked but unaffected, I don’t cry, I don’t feel like crying, I just rub lotion on her back and demand that God start doing something!Lately [Maria] sits in her chair in silence, I ask her questions and she doesn’t respond. She’s checked out. Her body is here but her mind is elsewhere and its not good. She’s numb too. It’s weeks like these that I pray God take her. She prays God take her too. I tell her to hang in there and she says she tries but that its getting harder.
[The fall has] forced us to reconsider many of the decisions we’ve made. We do not regret fighting,never that, we are just at a place in [Maria]‘s disease where all of us have stopped to think, “Is it still worth it, should we keep encouraging her to do chemo when we see that it leaves her bedridden, her body falling apart piece by piece, at this point is this a life worth living. Is all the suffering, the swelling, the wounds, the bed sores, the mouth sores the sadness worth it?” I still don’t know, someday’s I think yes and some no. Everytime she gets mouthsores or a wound it’s like I get punched in the stomach. I don’t know how nurses do it. Whenever I help heal [Maria]‘s wounds or even give her water to drink I’m forced to look away. I just don’t know anymore.
Elton W. was from Hong Kong. He was 5 1/2-years old on February 15, 2011 when he was diagnosed with a intrinsic pontine tumor, a tumor on the brain stem. His family kept a Caringbridge site. The prognosis is terrible for these tumors. Many, many of the patients you see on this site had this tumor.
On the 21st of February, Elton is defending the decision to seek out traditional Chinese medicine instead of real medicine, like surgery. The story is distressing, and I feel awful for the family. They have been taken for a ride by every charlatan they’ve met.
We start to hear about Burzynski in the first week in July 2011. Elton’s mother has been in contact with the father of Bobby W, and he recommends Burzynski. Again, and I can’t state this loudly or often enough, anecdotes are not the right type of evidence that would allow us to determine efficacy. Just because someone who was on a treatment doesn’t mean it was the treatment that cured them, that the diagnosis was correct, or that a spontaneous remission didn’t occur. Anecdotes may be suggestive of areas of study, but are no indicator of efficacy. Legitimate doctors do not depend on patient anecdotes, which are an almost universal warning flag of quackery.
By the 9th, Elton’s mother is seriously considering America and Burzynski. She has been talking to former Burzynski patient Jessica R. The mother has also sought out the website of Braiden N. The networks of patients, networks of who I can only describe as outliers, drag in so many people with false hope. It’s so disheartening.
On July 27, we get word that Elton is deteriorating bit by bit:
Elton has been deteriorating quite a lot lately, can barely walk now, in addition to his serious paralyze on his right face, tears and saliva keeps dropping, fluid choking, etc. I m finally tired of carrying him here and there (except the weekly SZ doctor visit and the acupuncture in Tai Wai every other day by Uncle Liu), not to mention the usual playgroup with kids/ moms gatherings. My energy seems to be “out of stock” lately (packing and unpacking contributed too). So i apologize for all the no shows/ replies over the past 2 weeks.
Further, the mother frets about the FDA’s supervision of the trials and the problems finding a real doctor to sign off on Burzynski’s asinine treatment:
Now, I am getting stuck in granting FDA’s approval of having Elton in this Phase III clinical trial (no freedom of choice of treatment even in America!!). They need me to submit a doctor’s letter saying Chemo/ Radiation will do no good for Elton, and they also need me to find a local doctor to endorse/ at least understand what we will do on Elton so that he can help to follow up in case of any emergency/ complication when we are back to HK after 1 month treatment in Texas. I am struggling where to find this Doctor!!! Dr Wilson Fung Yee Leung??? Guess he will kick me out of his room since we never revert back to his NK cell therapy recommendation with Mrs. Heung…..
On the first day of August, Elton’s mom mentions his further decline:
It was an exhausting day for both of us…Elton’s face is getting pale, and his left hand and leg become “powerless” (probably due to the tumor on his right side), i can’t handle carrying him any longer as he suddenly becomes heavier a lot (though his weight keeps decreasing) :( I will try the baby stroller from Otto and will work on the wheelchair option with CCF.
We also learn that she has been warned about Burzynski, apparently, and that some doctors capitalize on the fear of death and loss, and yet:
Frankly I am not afraid that elton is leaving us to go to Heaven, but i think i will regret/ blame myself if i did not do research of every possible way to help him!
This is a desperate gambit, but one that you see over and over and over in the patient stories, that a parent could not live with themselves if they didn’t try everything. Of course, that asks the wrong question. You have to ask what is the best option for the child, not whether or not you will have the luxury of not having to live with “what if”s when it is all over.
On August 10th we see things coming together as far as a trip to the US is concerned:
- doctor’s letter (thank your Dr Tony Luk – my good neighbor friend at Pictorial Garden!!!);
- Burzynski clinic’s positive reply who allows us to come for treatment (they have confidence to get FDA’s approval for Elton to go for their clinical trial);
- numerous friends who are helping major and minor arrangements (eg. accommodation, transportation, all the watch-outs like international driving license/ voltage, support from friends of friends who are living in Houston, etc etc, and even telling me 911 as reminder!!!).
- Noah’s mom – [...] – current patient from Burzynski clinic – sending email to remind exact medical fees/ schedule/ etc..and CONFIDENCE most importantly!
By August 12th, travel arrangements have been made and the family. They leave for Houston on the 17th and have an appointment at the clinic on the 18th at 12:30.
On the 18th, they start the process and arrange to go to St. Joseph’s to have a catheter inserted into Elton’s chest. (These catheters, by the way, are gateways for infection a major drawback of the treatment that often keeps kids on antibiotics and in the hospital for extended periods of time.) On the 20th, they move into their temporary home, an apartment about 30 minutes away from the clinic. People affiliated with a loval church are helping the family get by. On the 23rd the catheter is inserted.
On the 25th we hear:
Clinic has delayed Elton’s 1st treatment schedule to 1230pm on Aug 26….waiting bothers me a lot!Dr Alejandro Marquis, Elton’s doctor in charge at B clinic, told us that his 11 years old daughter just got diagnosed with leukemia….cancer monster is everywhere! :(
I have started the new drugs for 3 days already, through the IV tube infused directly into my blood, and i need to carry the pump (like a timer) 24 hr/ day which connects me and the drugs. Everything goes well so far and i was requested to drink plenty of water to dilute its high sodium level…as you can imagine, i need to pee all the time too :(
These aren’t the only side effects, of course. On one version of the ANP informed consent form that the clinic gave its patients, a partial list of ANP’s side effects included 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, and slurred speech. It’s irksome to hear that former patients are now saying that there are “no long term toxicities.” Coma and risk of death seem to me to have a long term impact, and they need to stop kidding themselves that they are promoting anything other but a potentially fatal treatment. And they need to cut the word “non-toxic” from their vocabularies.
On September 2nd, we get this update:
Elton feels tired easily since the increased dose of ANP (Antineoplaston), but he is not a quality sleeper (refuses nap) and he needs to pee once/ twice during the night.. Last night, it was so funny that we had dinner at Kenneth and Clara’s antique house and he fell asleep at the table/ then on sofa with his full spoon of rice and veggi still in his mouth till we sent him home. And in the morning (3am), he woke up for pee and he said his mouth was full of rubbish!!!He requested for To Fu “flower” for breakfast this morning (dessert last nite made by clara), and the nightmare begins….he did not feel well on our way to clinic, a bit headache and having nausea (desire to vomit). The doctor and nurse assessed him , draw blood and recommended us to do decadron (Steroid) IV on him through the catheter as his tumor may have got inflammation (natural effect after ANP) which causes all these symptoms.Unwillingly, i acted as a nurse to inject the decadron slowly through his catheter (0.2ml), once i finished, he vomited all the To fu out….he did feel better after a short while as we all know that decadron has miracle instant effect which can boost him up for a while. and he needs to take the oral decadron pill twice a day since today till these inflammations symptoms are gone…guess it will take a few months or even longer (said the doctor) :(
I m doing fine with the medication, but i need to carry the pump and the IV bags 24 x7, and i need to pee over 25+ everyday which makes me very inconvenient to go out. I missed all my new friends in Houston and also the beautiful church there….
Discouraging MRI result: 6.2 x 5.1 x 6.2 cm (vs. 5.4 x 5.3 x 6.0cm on Aug 16, 2011)…compressing the fourth ventricle and there is risk of hydrocephalus and shunting may be needed. Dr Hung suggested to go admission to CCC at PWH asap and to increase steroid dosage to buy time (1mg x 4 per day).I was too calm for the result as i expect so, and we discharged at 1130pm as Elton wants to sleep at home…. he now cannot walk, stand, sit at all, having difficulty in eating, drinking and talking, fatigue/ jet-lag, terribly bad temper…what can be more worse?? will sunshine come after the typhoon?
Elton’s face turned PURPLE yesterday and I almost LOST him…..We had our 2nd attempt to remove the respiratory ventilator this pm, Elton was fine for the first 15 mins, he was working hard to breathe by himself though the breath was very shallow! Then the nurse inserted an OG tube into his nose to reach his stomach, which triggered his choking problem, etc. Blood oxygen level dropped drastically, lips were completely purple and all the doctors and nurses in ICU unit RAN to come saving his life!!!! Finally, with NO choice at all, we made the decision to re-install the ventilator to help him to restore breathing and make him stable first! I almost lost him today!!! No No No, PLEASE!!!!!!!