Burzynski Cancer Treatment: No Miracles There

I had a little look into this Burzynski thing after seeing a link to a fundraising campaign posted on a friend’s Facebook wall. The campaign aimed to raise money money to send a little girl with an inoperable brain tumour to a clinic in Texas for a “groundbreaking” treatment not available on the NHS or privately at any clinic in the UK. Obviously, it is awful that there is a 3 year old with an apparently incurable disease. Of course, the thought of the suffering that her family must be going through at this time was almost unbearable. Clearly if there is a possibility that a treatment that exists that could cure her, then all effort should be made to help her to access it.

But then, despite my sympathy for her and her family, and the almost overwhelming compulsion to click the “donate” button, being a born skeptic, the words “groundbreaking” and “not available on the NHS or anywhere in the UK” triggered my quack-o-meter to red-alert. In addition, if a treatment is new and experimental, and targeting a rare condition, then shouldn’t it be offered to patients exactly like this one, for free, as part of a clinical trial? Isn’t that how evidence based medicine works? The answer is yes. And if the campaign had been, for example, to get her to the USA because that’s where the clinical trial was being held, then it would have been understandable.

Unfortunately for this little girl and her family, a few minutes of googling led me to the decision that this was not something I felt I could donate to and a few hours of more intensive research helped me towards forming the opinion that sadly, the best this man and his “pioneering” clinic and “miracle cure” have to offer is false hope, and the worst is risk of serious harm.

I won’t go into detail about his methods or theories; others who are better qualified have already done so. If interested, ScienceBlogs have written about it as have Sense about Science and many others better qualified than me. Of particular note, is a 17 year old boy called Rhys Morgan who took on Burszynski all by himself, through his blog, in which he calmly and maturely questioned the validity of this “miracle cure” that has no scientific evidence base. He then had the courage to respond intelligently and civilly to a series of threatening emails from the “representative” of the peddlers of this “miracle cure”. This kid is definitely one to watch and fills me with hope for the future of the human race!

Suffice it to say, it’s not surprising that this treatment is not available on the NHS; I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that I would not appreciate my taxes going towards paying for charlatanism and quackery (it’s bad enough that homeopathic medicine receives NHS funding)! It makes me very very sad that people like this man (among other peddlers of so-called “alternative” therapies) are allowed to continue selling false hope at increasingly high prices.

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