In September 2003, 5-year old Antonio L. of Quebec was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. The prognosis for this tumor is rotten, 50% mortality in a year and virtually no (if any) cures.
In 2003, a couple of children from Quebec started treatments at the Clinic for brain tumors and sought to raise the anticipated $200,000 tab for the unproven chemotherapy in the media. The Gazette followed the story, and that is the source of most of the information that I have found here. In the October 26th feature covering the two families, we see the magnitude of desperation that led the family to the Burzynski Clinic and their magic potion, antineoplastons:
But for the L. and the R. families, both of Beaconsfield, Burzynski represents a glimmer of hope.
“At this point, I have no choice. It’s either that or watch my son die,” [Antonio’s mother] said.
“Maybe my son will be among the 40 percent,” she said, referring to testimonials from former Burzynski patients seen on the Net.
There is, of course, no reason to think that 40% is a number that the Clinic could stand by, or if they did stand by it that we should accept it without peer-review. Burzynski has never published convincing results in a peer-reviewed journal that suggested his treatment was any more effective than taunting the tumor. Sadly, we are given a false dichotomy by Antonio’s mom. A third option was to get bilked for an ineffective treatment in a foreign country and watch her son die.
Antonio first showed symptoms when he started falling down at school.
According to the November 8th edition of The Gazette, that same day Antonio and his mother flew down to Texas to start treatment. They report that they have raised $30,000 for Burzynski. According to his mother:
“If it doesn’t work, at least I did what I thought was the right thing. I would go to the moon if I thought there was a small chance it would do some good.”
Burzynski not only takes from families, he preys on the goodwill of entire communities. On November 13th, an auction was held on Antonio’s behalf by the Beaconsfield Newcomers Club, and John Rennie High was collecting toys and books to raise funds for Antonio (Gazette, Nov 7). West Island College High School raised and donated $1000 to the cause in early December. Burzynski has found the perfect mark: nobody could deny a desperate parent’s plea for donations for their dying child. Burzynski puts them to work for him.
Someone who heard about Antonio’s story placed collection bottles around town to raise funds. On February 3rd, a bottle that was stuffed with approximately $1,500 in bills was stolen from a pizzeria, an act every bit as abominable as what Burzynski does. The police were unable to help as there was no video footage of the thief, however a police officer and pizzeria regular, Constable Alfredo Munoz, decided that just because he could not find the perpetrator didn’t mean that the police couldn’t do anything, and he launched a fundraiser among the staff of the police department:
“We’re getting money from all over the place, the whole big family – police officers, secretaries, everybody in the field – so it’s very nice.”
Never underestimate the generosity of a community. On the 10th, The Gazette reported that “thousands of dollars” had been raised following the theft of the money. Shortly thereafter, another establishment, Elounda Restaurant, donated half of its daily receipts to Burzynski.
On May 22nd, 2004, Antonio died. The family did not leave a record of his treatment. Most, I imagine, don’t. However, the mother said something interesting in the article announcing Antonio’s passing:
Luk said until the beginning of May, Antonio was doing very well. But an MRI at the beginning of the month showed the treatment he’d received in the United States was not working for him and the tumour was still growing.
It seems to me that there was no abatement of the tumor. I see nothing to suggest that it impeded the progress of the tumor in any way. Antonio succumbed well within the expected prognosis for someone without treatment; his plight lasted about nine months.
Usually, this is where we would put an appeal to donate to St. Jude’s. You may still do that, if you like, but we are now actively campaigning for an investigation into how the FDA decided to allow Burzynski not only to continue his ridiculous trials, but to actually get a phase III trial after a decade of abominable site visits. Go to thehoustoncancerquack.com and you will find the resources you need to put primary documents–the FDA inspection notes–into the hands of your representatives so they can conduct an investigation. All appeals to understand this made to the FDA have failed, so now we need to press the issue onto the committees that oversee the FDA. Please help us uncover what went wrong so we can fix it and so this never happens again. Find out about real clinical trials by visiting clinicaltrials.gov.