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Burzynski's "research" - Part 1 (21/7/2012)
Cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski has 61 clinical trials listed on the register at http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=burzynski. Here is an analysis of the progress so far:
|Not yet started||1|
His supporters love to point to evidence of his success and can become quite abusive when anybody questions them. One piece of evidence they continually offer is the fact that he has a Phase 3 trial listed, but unfortunately that's not really evidence of anything as it's the trial that hasn't even started recruiting subjects yet. My guess is that Burzynski has no intention of ever starting that trial and it is just there for advertising purposes. No results have been published for the single completed trial, although it was supposedly finished in 2006.
Over the last two weeks his supporters have been calling all his detractors liars for saying that he doesn't publish anything and therefore there is no evidence of him curing anybody of anything. Oh yes, there are countless anecdotes and many web sites begging for money to send terminally ill children to Texas for a miracle cure. As Burzynski has been using web sites begging for money to save sick kids as an advertising gimmick for years not a lot has changed. What we want to see are papers in reputable peer-reviewed journals reporting on the results of double-blind randomised trials. You know, the sort of stuff we expect everyone else to do.
Why we are liars is because he has actually published something and I have been given links to it on at least a dozen occasions so I assume it's the best they've got. (One surprising thing is that some of his supporters seem to think that PubMed is a medical journal. It's an index to publications, so saying "He's been published in PubMed" is like saying "He must be legitimate. He's in the phone book".) Here it is.
Integr Cancer Ther. 2006 Mar;5(1):40-7.
Targeted therapy with antineoplastons A10 and AS2-1 of high-grade, recurrent, and progressive brainstem glioma.
Burzynski SR, Janicki TJ, Weaver RA, Burzynski B.
Department of Internal Medicine, Burzynski Clinic, Houston, Texas 77055, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Brainstem glioma carries the worst prognosis of all malignancies of the brain. Most patients with brainstem glioma fail standard radiation therapy and chemotherapy and do not survive longer than 2 years. Treatment is even more challenging when an inoperable tumor is of high-grade pathology (HBSG). The objective of this report is to summarize the outcome of patients with HBSG treated with antineoplastons in 4 phase 2 trials. Patients: The following group of 18 patients was evaluable: 4 patients with glioblastomas and 14 patients with anaplastic HBSG. Fourteen patients had diffuse intrinsic tumors. Twelve patients suffered from recurrence, and 6 patients did not have radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Antineoplastons, which consist of antineoplaston A10 (A10I) and AS2-1 injections, were given in escalating doses by intravenous injections. The median duration of antineoplaston administration was 5 months, and the average dosage of A10I was 9.22 g/kg/d and of AS2-1 was 0.31 g/kg/d. Responses were assessed by gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography.
The overall survival at 2 and 5 years was 39% and 22%, respectively, and maximum survival was more than 17 years for a patient with anaplastic astrocytoma and more than 5 years for a patient with glioblastoma. Progression-free survival at 6 months was 39%. Complete response was achieved in 11%, partial response in 11%, stable disease in 39%, and progressive disease in 39% of patients. Antineoplastons were tolerated very well with 1 case of grade 4 toxicity (reversible anemia).
Antineoplastons contributed to more than a 5-year survival in recurrent diffuse intrinsic glioblastomas and anaplastic astrocytomas of the brainstem in a small group of patients.
So let's summarise that.
|All 18 subjects|
But wait -
|All 18 subjects|
|Progression-free 6 months||39%||7|
By remarkable coincidence, those numbers add up to 100%, despite the fact that the rows are not independent (each figure includes the one on the row below it). Also, as everyone in the 2-year survival group must have made it beyond six months this seems to indicate that nobody ever gets worse after six months. This seems highly unlikely. The numbers are also inconsistent with the numbers in the first table - surely "Complete response" should not be only half of "5-year survival".
If this is the best research that Burzynski can come up with then I would hate to see the worst. In summary, a cobbled-together paper published in a low-impact journal six years ago which aggregates the results of four non-blinded trials with a small total number of subjects and which includes suspicious statistics is not about to get anyone the trip to Sweden that a cure for cancer would guarantee. If I had to rewrite the conclusion section of the paper it would say something like this:
We tried to find evidence that the treatments we have been selling at very high price for many years actually have an effect on the progression of certain forms of cancer. None of the clinical trials (that we pretend to do to get around the FDA's ruling about unproven treatments) were good enough on their own to show efficacy so we cherry-picked some of them, put them together as if they were independent studies suitable for meta-analysis and then added some numbers to make things look good. We reported the numbers in two inconsistent ways, hoping that nobody would notice that we didn't actually find any evidence of a cure. We even included an outlier to make the numbers look better, but we know that most people citing this paper will not know what that means or why it might be a problem.
Burzynski's "research" - Part 2 (21/7/2012)
Another piece of published research thrown in everyone's faces by Burzynski supporters multiple times over the last fortnight was a paper titled "Phenylacetylglutaminate and Phenylacetate in Combination Upregulate VDUP1, Cause Cell Cycle Blockade and Apoptosis in U87 Glioblastoma Cells". This appeared in the Journal of Cancer Therapy. Here's the abstract:
Phenylacetylglutaminate (PG) and Phenylacetate (PN) are metabolites of Phenylbutyrate (PB) and are constituents of antineoplaston AS2-1. These are sodium salts of amino acid derivative and carboxylic acid that inhibit the growth of neoplastic cells without growth inhibitory effect in normal cells. The aim of this study was to identify molecular pathways involved in the anti-proliferative effect of antineoplastons. Using a total human genome microarray we have found that 1) Vitamin D3 upregulated protein (VDUP1) is significantly upregulated in response to PG and PN in the U87 glioblastoma cells; 2) Isobologram analysis shows that PG and PN act in an additive or synergistic manner to effectively suppress proliferation of U87 cells; 3) PG and PN cause cell cycle arrest, changes in expression of several cell cycle genes and suppress expression and activity of the G2/M checkpoint kinase, CHK1. The multiple cellular targets possibly make these compounds effective anti-proliferative agents. We propose that PG and PN in combination target important cellular pathways and upregulate VDUP1 leading to detachment-induced apoptosis in cancer cells.
Now that's a very sciency set of words. Let's do some evaluation.
So, in summary, it was found that an in vitro test of chemicals which when dissolved produce a significant concentration of sodium ions (enough to cause concern when preparing reagents) damaged cancer cells more than doing nothing to the cells did. No attempt was made to see if the effect could have just been due to the high level of sodium salts, but the ability of salt to inhibit cell division and kill cells has only been known since the first woman discovered salt as a meat preservative so why would the scientists need to worry about it in this experiment? Lots of things kill cancer cells in vitro, but I'm not about to start letting anyone inject bleach into me. The results were then published in a pay-for-publication journal that uses a meaningless "peer review" process.
This "experiment" proves nothing that couldn't have been predicted by a thought experiment and some knowledge of basic chemistry and biology. All the supposed science and graphs and statistics in the published paper are window-dressing to hide the fact that nothing new has been discovered and to provide yet another advertising tool for Burzynski and his supporters to use to snare more victims. Non-scientists referred to the paper will see all the big words and graphs and have no idea that it is all a smokescreen. There is no way this paper could get published in a reputable journal where proper peer review was conducted. It is a junior high school science project dressed up to look like grown-up science.
But here's the real question - if Burzynski has been researching antineoplastons for 45 years, why has he waited until now to see if they kill cancer cells in vitro? Surely that would be the first thing you do before you ever go near a human patient. Like I said, this is a smokescreen to hide the fact that Burzynski has no science to back up his claims. It's like the homeopaths that offer experiments purporting to demonstrate that water has a memory. It doesn't matter if antineoplastons kill cancer cells in a petri dish, what matters is whether they are an effective treatment for cancer. Until Burzynski starts doing real clinical trials, with adequate subject numbers and proper controls and blinding, running the trials through to their conclusion and publishing the results we are entitled to treat him according to the image he presents. The image of a charlatan who lies about science in order to steal the life savings of desperate, sick people. The image of a calculating crook who will do or say anything to get what he wants.
An oldie but goodie from the late Don Addis. Almost topical again.
Disgusting, I tells ya! (21/7/2012)
One of the constant squeals that comes out of Meryl Dorey and the deceptively-named Australian Vaccination Network is that devious people associated with Australian Skeptics (of which I am a former President and current committee member) and the Facebook group "Stop the AVN" have harassed her and her followers by associating them with pornography. She has even claimed that the harassers have emailed pornographic images to her and her supporters. Of course there could be some confusion as the AVN shares its acronym with the US-based Adult Video News, but we detractors of the AVN can't be held responsible for coincidence. In any case, I made the connection when I first started The Millenium Project, as can be seen by this piece I posted on the tenth anniversary of the site's birth.
Where it started (14/3/2009)
In 1996 I wrote a book about the Internet. (It was published in early 1997 and modesty forbids me mentioning the name of the author of the biggest-selling non-fiction book in Australia that year.) One of the distasteful things I had to do while researching the book was to examine how easy it could be to find and look at pornography, because that was (as it is now) a concern for some parents and I assumed, rightly as it turned out, that the subject would be raised in almost every interview I did while promoting the book. While doing other research I came across a site from a crowd calling itself the Vaccination Awareness Network, and I remember saying at the time that none of the porn sites I looked at were anywhere near as offensive as this pile of garbage from a pack of child haters.
In 1999 I discovered that the group of clowns had changed their name to make their opposition to vaccination less obvious to the casual observer. They were now called the Australian Vaccination Network, and this change of name to something deceitfully inoffensive made me think that there were people who needed to be offended and offended often. I was looking for a name for my new project, and that was 1999 so everyone was talking about the millennium except those that were talking about the millenium. A metaphorical light bulb flashed over my head and I thought "millenium - a thousand arseholes". The rest is history. What started as just a list of the first hundred offensive sites on March 14, 1999, has turned into what you see today. Unfortunately, the Australian Vaccination Network is also still with us and they are just as offensive to sane and rational people as they were back then, so I have been paying them some attention in this anniversary week.
There is a system called Paper.li that allows people to develop and publish web-based newspapers. The system picks up content from your Facebook friends, Twitter contacts and other places and puts them all together on one page. A link to this page is then sent out to the various social networks and includes the necessary tags so that people whose work has been included know about it. I get a few Twitter messages each week about Paper.li pages where something I have said has been reported. I'm not sure how useful the system is but a lot of people think it was worth the trouble to set up an account.
Ms Dorey has one of these automatic newspapers called The Vaccination Network Daily. I usually don't see it because I'm not allowed to follow Ms Dorey on Twitter and I assume that it doesn't publish the sort of things I say about vaccines and the people who lie about them.
This week a glitch hit. Either that or Ms Dorey is following some strange people on Twitter. Word spread quickly from people who received the update link out to the wider world and much amusement was had by all. All except AVN supporters, of course, as they were instantly in conspiracy mode looking for someone to blame. It was actually a member of Stop the AVN who emailed Ms Dorey to tell her about it (no thanks were received) and the page was changed. Here is what someone who rants about people sending her pornography released to an unknown number of people this week. (As this is a family web site I have bowdlerised the image, but if you are very brave or extremely unshockable you can wave your mouse over it to see what the fuss was about.)
It was a tough decision for Schadenfreude Corner this week.
Another one I got from a site that steals things without attribution.
If anyone knows who I should acknowledge please let me know.
Losers gonna lose. (21/7/2012)
By coincidence our old friend Patrick Timothy Bolen, spokesenema to charlatans and thieves, chose this weekend to start gloating about old court cases that had bankrupted us sensible people who fight against the sort of nonsense that his clients sell. The coincidence is that it was on July 21, 2001, that one of those "successful" cases was withdrawn from court by Pat's favourite lawyer Carlos Negrete, a man who makes a living representing douchebags. Mr Negrete Esq once publicly referred to me as "a bottom-feeding parasite". He was trying to sue me for defamation at the time and his comment suggested that he was away sick on the day they taught defamation law and decided that he could just make it up as he went along. Mr Negrete Esq was also going to serve me with lots of legal papers when I got off a plane in Los Angeles in 2004 but that was a Friday so he probably had something else to do because he never showed up.
The court case in question was brought by the publishing company owned by the late and not lamented cancer quack Hulda Clark and included defendants from all over the world (including me) plus some people who weren't even people at all (mailing lists, domain names - yes they tried to sue a domain name, not the owner, the name itself). The case hung around the courts for 260 days, allowing plenty of time for quacks to tell everyone about how we were being sued and were all going to end up bankrupt. Finally a judge told Mr Negrete Esq and his client to either do something or get off the pot, so an application to dismiss the case was filed. It is interesting to note that Mr Negrete Esq continued to display the original court papers for some time but "forgot" to mention that he had successfully asked the court to drop the action or to display the dismissal notice.
You can click on the image over there to see the clowns running away with their tails between their legs. There is a link on that page to the whole farcical story of the case. It's great for a laugh.
Why the memes "FOAD" and "DIAF" had to be invented (21/7/2012)
A moron posts a message to the Usenet group misc.health.alternative using the subject line "Health problems in Colorado" and makes some sort of bizarre leap of non-logic in order to connect people she doesn't like with a tragedy. (Nobody in the group had said that they wanted to see the latest Batman movie.) Most of us just attributed it to this well-known poster's fading mental abilities and hatred of everyone. (She once called someone a "Jew boy" and claimed that nobody should find that offensive.) She gets forgiven (sort of) because of our compassion towards the mentally ill.
Then Tim Bolen has his say. Does this even require a comment?
Did you notice that Tim got the lunatic's name wrong? I assume that's because he doesn't like to say things that are true. The fact that he used the name of an old-time porn star instead says a lot about him.
The Atheist Cartoons site disappeared in 2014
Schadenfreude Corner (21/7/2012)
Sometimes there are things in my email which make me smile with pleasure. This media release from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is an example.
ACCC takes action against pyramid scheme operator
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings against Mr Leslie Forsyth Stott, a former director of Crimeguard International Security Systems Pty Ltd (CISS), for involvement in a pyramid selling scheme. The ACCC alleges that Mr Stott participated and induced others to participate in a pyramid selling scheme. The ACCC also alleges that Mr Stott engaged in false, misleading and/or deceptive conduct concerning representations about the profitability of the CISS business. The ACCC is seeking:
The matter has been filed in the Melbourne Federal Court's Fast Track List. The first Scheduling Conference is listed for 9.30am on 31 August 2012 in the Federal Court, Victoria.
Release # NR 145/12
Issued: 20th July 2012
And something reminded me of this.
This is what insanity looks like (28/7/2012)
This picture was posted to Facebook by someone who is so in love with guns that he feels he can ignore human decency. It is not possible to even imagine that someone who thinks like this is sane. I didn't bother to look (because there's so much even I can stand) but I would bet money that the moron who posted this would also be a Holocaust denier, because we all know that that is a left-wing plot.
And you know how all these clowns claim that they have a right to carry guns because the Constitution of the USA gives that right to members of a militia? They seem very quiet about how the US law defines a militia, because otherwise they would have to hand in their artillery on their 45th birthdays.
10 USC Sec. 311:
"(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 year of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32 [32 USC sec. 313], under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are commissioned officers of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -- the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia."
Do some good (28/7/2012)
It's National Blood Donor Week in Australia. The Red Cross has told me that I can't donate until my broken ankle has healed because my body is carrying on like it's infected with something, so it's up to everyone else. Go here to find the nearest place where you can donate. If you haven't donated before it's easy, and like the slogan used to say: "The only thing you'll feel is good". And you don't just get a biscuit afterwards - you can get a cake or a sausage roll, a cup of tea or coffee, and even a milkshake.
I write something (28/7/2012)
Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network started lying again about a connection between vaccination and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a connection which only exists in the decayed minds of anti-vaccination liars and is one of the lies they tell in order to frighten parents away from properly caring for their children.
Not only did she make the connection but yet again she suggested contacting the parents of dead children to interrogate them and increase their misery and sense of guilt. The claim about a link between vaccines and SIDS is only exceeded in awfulness by the claim that Shaken Baby Syndrome is always a vaccine reaction. It's hard to imagine vileness worse than this - blame parents whose children die without explanation and forgive people who beat children to death. While we're thinking about this, here is Ms Dorey a few years ago suggesting "Shaken Maybe Syndrome" as a sound bite.
To bring these two threads together I was asked to write an article for the online magazine Mamamia. You can read the article here. (The version that was published was heavily edited. There were some things in the published article that I wouldn't have put there (the material identifying the baby who died of pertussis and her parents) but editors always have the right to make changes.) You can read the article as published here, and it is that version which matters for what follows below.
Another cartoon of mystery origin, this time found on Facebook. If anyone knows who
I should acknowledge please let me know.
Then I go on the wireless to talk about it (28/7/2012)
After the article appeared in Mamamia I was contacted by radio station 6PR in Perth and asked if I would come on air to discuss what I had written. As shyness is not in my genetic makeup I agreed. I knew who I would be talking to so I made sure that I read the article again because I expected to have to defend it. At the agreed time Howard Sattler's producer rang me and informed me that Meryl Dorey from the AVN would follow me to provide her views on what I had written and said. I instantly knew how this was going to go (I've explained before why debating fanatics is dangerous) but it was too late to back out and I certainly wasn't going to give her the platform to herself. Had I known she would be on I would have had a lot more facts at my fingertips and mouseclick, but I learn from every experience and if I ever have the opportunity to appear on the same show again I will be better prepared.
The only part of the interview which related to the Mamamia article was a brief mention of the name of the Australian Vaccination Network and why I think it should be changed. The rest consisted of an attack on me, attempts to show that I don't care about children who suffer reactions to vaccines and rehashing some things I had said that caused great offence to anti-vaccination liars. I was impressed by the chutzpah of a shock jock who makes a living by making outrageous comment in order to get a reaction criticising me for doing a similar thing, but I thought better of mentioning it because I wanted to stay on the air. As for offending anti-vaccination liars, I consider it a wasted day if I don't do it at least once.
After Mr Sattler had finished with me Ms Dorey was put on the air to provide her opinion. I tried counting the "inaccuracies" in what she said but I made the mistake of holding the phone in my left hand and counting with the fingers on my right. If I had swapped hands I could have got in some good exercise for my guitar fretting fingers. I gave up counting at 20.
And then the whatever hit the fan (28/7/2012)
Ms Dorey was not content to simply use a tame radio announcer attack me and spread untruths about me. She went into full-blown mouth foam mode and published no less than four blog posts about me over a period of days.
The third one of these was comment on and a link to a blog post by Liz Hempel, apparently now Ms Dorey's lieutenant and right-hand support person. We have met Ms Hempel before, so a further glimpse into her insanity was neither unexpected nor unsurprising. You can read her ravings here:
I want to respond to all of the crazy in detail so I will devote all of next weekend's update to this. I'm late with this update as it is and there is just too much to respond to if I'm ever going to get anything else done. Also, I have to go to the stationers and get a big box of yellow markers. There will be a lot of lies and misrepresentations to highlight and I wouldn't want to run out of coloured pens.
In the second of Ms Dorey's rants she makes this statement: "this man has a regular blog on Mia Freedman's Mamamia page". That needs the yellow marker because it is simply not true and that fact is very easy to check. (All Ms Dorey had to do was click on my name where I am shown as the author and she will see that I have written only two articles for Mamamia - this one and one in December 2011.) Undaunted, Ms Dorey decided that she would start a campaign on Twitter to have me "dumped" from Mamamia.
The person with the Twitter name @marthajones is almost a clone of Liz Hempel and usually only jumps into conversations to abuse people. You will notice that Ms Dorey implies that I assault women. She is lucky that I am still employing my policy of not suing people for defamation, although that policy can be changed at any time. Unlike Ms Dorey I believe in freedom of speech (she says she does but wants a web site to stop publishing my work) but even I have my limits of tolerance.
Ms Dorey's strategy was to use the hashtag #DumpBowditch. The idea of hashtags in Twitter is that people can filter on them and follow a conversation. They only work if many people read them and in this case Ms Dorey had what is known on the 'net as a colossal fail. My friends took over the tag and spent the night using it to accuse me of every bad thing that had ever happened in history, including murdering the Romanovs and (posted by my daughter) giving the fruit to Eve, thereby triggering Original Sin. It was better than a laugh a minute, it was a laugh a second and it went on for a useful length of time. If you have a Twitter account do a search for #DumpBowditch and have some fun.
Being ridiculed didn't stop Ms Dorey, although it did seem to affect her knowledge of the way Twitter works because she started using the hashtag to refer to me instead of my Twitter name but as I was following the tag I was able to see this exchange. In the top message Ms Dorey is replying to what I posted in the message at the bottom. You don't need much of a command of English to see that she completely misrepresents what I said. This is a form of lying, but she would have been hoping that her acolytes would only see the messages she posted because like all good little followers they would have me blocked. As I said above (and in the radio interview) Ms Dorey is perfectly entitled to her opinion. She is not entitled to make up her own facts, and she is not entitled to say that I've said things that I have not said. As she did the same thing when I was banned from the AVN's Internet mailing list in 1999 it seems to be something that she does as a matter of course. Which is very sad.
Yet another one found on Facebook. Please tell me who I should acknowledge if you know.