HOUSTON -- Every day, people from all over the United States come to Houston to be treated for life-threatening cancers.
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Cancer cure found?
July 7, 2009
But some drive right past MD Anderson, one of the nation's top cancer hospitals, and instead go a clinic where the treatment does not have the Food and Drug Administration's approval.
It's a clinic run by a doctor who at one time fought federal charges that threatened to send him to prison and shut down his clinic. Now, he says he may be on the verge of finally putting his critics to rest.
His name is Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, a Polish immigrant who years ago came to Houston to work for the mainstream cancer research centers in the Texas Medical Center. Now, his name and the Polish eagle emblem can be found on everything from his clinic off Westheimer, to his drug companies in Stafford, to his home in west Houston valued upwards of $7million.
Not bad, considering his business was once on the rocks. The government tried to shut it down for administering his experimental drug without approval. In 1995 a federal grand jury indicted Burzynski. But at his trial, jurors took his side. A juror who acquitted him said that testimony revealed Burzynski was "a man of integrity."
Other jurors condemned the FDA for trying to keep Burzynski from treating desperately ill cancer patients.
"Now it's 12 years later. We are working with FDA," Dr. Burzynski said from his office in west Houston. The FDA still has not approved Burzynski's drug. But now, the therapy is about to be tested in what's called a Phase III trial, which amounts to a massive but closely supervised experiment involving potentially hundreds of brain cancer patients worldwide. It could offer scientific evidence of what many of his former patients have said.
Patients like Neal Dublinsky who lives in Los Angeles.
"Honestly I don't think I'd be alive without having taken his treatment," Dublinsky said last week.
In 1995, Dublinsky appeared on CBS-TV, telling morning anchor Harry Smith how he was cured and without the suffering often caused by traditional chemo-therapy.
"It's like cancer never happened to me," he told Smith.
Now, 14 years later, Dublinsky said he's still feeling good.
"I've been in full great health since then," he said. "Houston was the city where my life was saved."
The treatment, called antineoplaston, can come in the form of a clear liquid that is injected into patients. Burzynski's labs make it synthetically, but it's based on amino acids found in urine and blood. Burzynski was asked how confident he is the Phase III trials will prove it works: "I don't have any doubts because that's what we see all the time," Dr. Burzynski said.
But If Dr. Burzynski's treatment is so effective, why then is it not used at Houston's MD Anderson? The answer, according to Dr. Maurie Markman, is simple: So far, there isn't any proof that it works.
"Well, I don't have any evidence, that's for certain," said Dr. Markman, MD Anderson's head of research. "His claims have certainly not reached the level of acceptance in the medical community."
Dr. Markman said there can be lots of explanations why certain patients recover.
"First of all the diagnosis could have been wrong. Second of all, the patient could have had some other therapy that worked. Third of all, this could be the natural history of the cancer," Markman said.
But Dr. Burzynski, who believes it was MD Anderson that reported him to the feds years ago, thinks there may be something else at work.
"It's very typical in medical history. It's difficult to be a prophet in your own country. So it's difficult to be a prophet in Houston," he said with a laugh. In other words, big institutions may not like being upstaged by an outsider.
The doctor at MD Anderson disagrees. But whatever the case, Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski said he is confident that in the next months or years, there will finally be proof that what he says can cure some cancers, really does.