I await the release of Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business, part II with trepidation verging on dread. This time, I won’t just have to contend with the usual overblown efficacy claims and the sickening and damaging cancer conspiracy theory. I’m now wondering if I’m meant to be part of the mysterious international group of “information hit men” Merola is currently claiming have been engaged in the intimidation and harrassment of terminal cancer patients.
The film is due to premiere on 10th March and available to pre-order on DVD now, to be shipped on 1st July. Sources quoted in this post are the new additions to the Burzynski Movie website, a new trailer and new interviews with director, Eric Merola, as part of Colorado Public Television CPT12′s Burzynski Movie night (helpfully posted here, by David James of East England Skeptics).
During the CPT12 coverage, Merola maintained that he is an independent documentary film maker and that he had to struggle to gain Burzynski’s trust. He neglected to mention that his cousin was a patient at the clinic who died less than two weeks after having been told that her tumour was diminishing.
He stressed that his work is strictly factual and supported by documentary evidence. He didn’t mention that he only presents the evidence that suits his particular narrative.
Merola told CBT12…
One thing I’ve noticed about the so-called opposition to this project is that when they claim that it isn’t factual, and then I ask them, quite point blank to try to defend their statement by going through the entire film and trying to disprove or debunk anything in it, they simply sort of walk away at that stage, they don’t really defend what they mean by not being factual, frankly
Perhaps he had forgotten this post on the Anaximperator blog, which went through the original Burzynski movie in fine detail, reaching the conclusion that there is no evidence that the cancer of any of the patients presented was cured or even improved with antineoplaston therapy. And he must have forgotten this post, by David Gorski, which also looked critically and in detail at the movie and pointed out that there is no credible scientific or clinical evidence to support antineoplaston therapy.
According to promotional material for part II, however, there are actually independent randomised clinical trials supporting antineoplastons.
Hideaki Tsuda from Kurume Medical University says:
After twenty-seven years of independently testing Antineoplastons—including randomized clinical trials, we found that Dr. Burzynski was right. It’s obviously not anecdotal anymore.
Following earlier promotions for the sequel, this statement was investigated by Keir Liddle on 21st Floor and was, to put it bluntly, found wanting. If there has been a good randomised clinical trial completed and published on antineoplastons, we have yet to see it.
In any case, it could be that antineoplastons are a thing of the past. In January, the FDA stepped in and apparently stopped new patients from being given antineoplastons, which have now virtually disappeared from the Burzynski Clinic website.
Predictably, Merola interprets this as a retaliation from the cancer industry. This is in marked contrast to comments by Burzynski’s latest PR person, Wayne Dolcefino, who has written that the FDA audit is simply a “routine visit” and that the clinic are currently analysing data from recently completed phase II trials and actively seeking publishing.
Of course, the Burzynski Clinic doesn’t just use antineoplastons. Treatment options currently described on their website include conventional chemotherapy and approved targeted therapies (which also come under the broad definition of conventional chemotherapy).
However, as with antineoplastons, I can no longer seem to find any mention of Burzynski’s “personalized gene-targeted cancer therapy” anywhere on his website.
Since the mapping of the Cancer Genome, Burzynski has pioneered an expansion of his therapy which he calls, “Personalized Gene-Targeted Cancer Therapy”, where each patient’s Genomic Cancer Atlas is mapped and a treatment regimen is personally tailored for each individual patient—vs. the conveyor belt, “one-size-fits-all” approach that current oncology adheres to.
The mapping of the Cancer Genome. Having your Genomic Cancer Atlas mapped. It all sounds rather impressive and technical - if you are so clueless as to believe that cancer has a genome, that is.
But Eric certainly seems to have worked hard to understand this stuff. As he told CBT12…
There’s a whole nother side of Burzynski’s therapy actually… I was quite… I couldn’t cover in the first one. I frankly couldn’t wrap my head around it, I had to really take some, spend some time with it, ’cause I really wanted to focus on the antineoplastons but now today with the advancements in studying the Human Genome, modern technology can map an individual patient’s Cancer Genome and basically understand the molecular switches within the body that is causing this cancer and there are dozens and dozens of commercial, commercially produced, gene targeted, if you will, therapies, produced by the industry on the market, but what Burzynski has done, is he’s ingeniously created new ways to use them, so the new movie shows how oncologists being baffled that their patient left their care, went to Burzynski and discovered that Burzynski gave his, their, patients the same medications that they had access to, only used them differently.
I don’t think Merola has the faintest clue what he’s talking about, but I’ll try to make sense of it as best I can. Firstly, there is actually such a thing as the Cancer Genome project, aiming to identify genes critical in the development of human cancers. Secondly, as mentioned above, some conventional chemotherapy drugs are targeted therapies. Thirdly, as described here and here, Burzynski had been making overblown and misleading claims for his version of “personalized gene-targeted therapies”, which seems to consist of screening patients, as in conventional use of targeted therapies, then prescribing untested cocktails of these drugs.
And finally, I must address the smear tactics used by Merola against those who have pointed out some of these issues. Of course I’m not part of a group formed to terrorize and misinform patients. Since no such group exists, I’m assuming that this is an attempt to discredit and intimidate bloggers like myself, who have written of the many and varied problems and controversies surrounding the Burzynski Clinic.
According to the Burynski Movie website…
You will be placed into the turbulent journey of how the industry utilizes its now usurped regulatory agency to both block Antineoplastons’ Phase 3 clinical trial process—and orchestrate a group of “information hit men” to pollute all channels of public information in an effort to confuse the public over the truth behind Antineoplastons. This international group also engages in the intimidation and harassment of prospective and current terminal cancer patients under Dr. Burzynski’s care.
Utter nonsense, of course. It disgusts me that Merola and Burzynski are using patients as human shields – though not as much as it disgusts me that they are less than honest and open with patients in the first place. Far from harrassing or intimidating patients, the overwhelming majority of Burzynski sceptics have been as tactful and sensitive as possible when discussing the issues.
But then, I would say that. Whatever. The fact remains that even if Burzynski sceptics were an organised and paid group, mean and nasty and funded by pharmaceutical companies, that would still not validate Burzynski.
It would not excuse or explain the fact that Burzynski has used a treatment for over 35 years without meaningful published data on efficacy and safety. Or the fact that he has run large numbers of clinical trials simultaneously without publishing data. That he has charged patients vast sums to take part in clinical trials. That he has sent out misleading information to prospective patients, for example indicating that antineoplastons are gene-targeted with few, if any side effects. It wouldn’t explain away all Burzynski’s legal scrapes (be they well known, or long forgotten). It wouldn’t explain how or why so many patients have been misled and let down.
Nor would it explain why the Burzynski Clinic think it acceptable to recommend dubious and potentially damaging sites to cancer patients. The Burzynski Movie site, for example.
Burzynski – the sequel Keir Liddle, The Twenty-First Floor, 17/02/13
Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s cancer “success” stories David Gorski, Science-Based Medicine, 18/02/13
Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s cancer “success” stories update: Why is the release of the Burzynski sequel being delayed? David Gorski, Science-Based Medicine, 04/03/13
The Anti Burzynski Movement? Keir Liddle, The Twenty-First Floor, 08/03/13