The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Orac’

Fight Against Cancer Quack Burzynski Goes to Congress

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 8, 2014

Last year I blogged about how this blog has joined a coalition of skeptical blogs titled the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients (SPCP).

The impetus for this is a particularly loathsome man - Stanislaw Burzynski – who is a quack that promises to cure people of their cancer, despite the fact that decades of research show that his claimed cancer cures don’t work.  Unfortunately, Burzynski has been able to skirt common decency, good medical science, and the FDA regulators and continue to practice his quackery, resulting in an unfortunate number of people going to him in the hopes that he can cure them.  A good rundown of Burzynski’s history of fraud can be found by listening to this recent podcast of Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the SPCP has decided to take down Burzynski due to the particularly flagrant manner in which he practices his dangerous pseudoscience; it will also serve as a message to all other medical quacks and charlatans to be on notice because we in the skeptical community are watching.

Burzynski SI Title

Well, now things are going to the next level – straight to Congress.  Burzynski has been able to get away with so much for so long because he has political allies in high places, so we’ve decided to fight fire with fire.  My skeptical colleagues at the SPCP have put together a petition asking Congress to step in and force the FDA to do its job and properly investigate, regulate, and (hopefully) put out of business Burzynski and his quack clinic.

Please consider signing and passing along this petition; the text of the petition follows – click here to sign:

Protect Desperate Patients from the Houston Cancer Quack

Petition by Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients

We are writing to request your urgent attention to a matter that involves the exploitation of cancer patients, their families, and their communities.

For nearly 40 years, Houston cancer doctor Stanislaw Burzynski has been treating cancer patients with an unproven chemotherapy he calls “antineoplastons.” Following an agreement in the 1990s with the FDA, he has recently only been able to administer the drug under the auspices of clinical trials. For this questionable treatment, he charges patients exorbitant fees (often hundreds of thousands of dollars) to participate in a trial, and he claims to cure the most difficult, almost uniformly fatal pediatric brain cancers. His claims are not supported by science and evidence; despite opening more than 60 trials in the last 15 years, he has not published the results of a single completed clinical trial.

On Friday, November 15, 2013, many concerning issues about Dr. Burzynski were detailed in a front-page exposé in USA Today, including his past use of antineoplastons as an AIDS and Parkinson’s treatment. Sickeningly, critics of the Clinic have found a pattern going back 20 years of patients publicly celebrating unambiguous signs of disease progression as signs that antineoplastons were working.

The FDA recently released site inspection notes about Stanislaw Burzynski’s clinic. Their findings were horrific:

– Burzynski “failed to protect the rights, safety, and welfare of subjects under your care.”
– “Forty-eight (48) subjects experienced 102 investigational overdoses“
– Burzysnki allowed overdoses continue: “Overdose incidents have been reported to you [....] There is no documentation to show that you have implemented corrective actions during this time period to ensure the safety and welfare of subjects.”
– All baseline tumor measurements were destroyed: “Your [...] tumor measurements initially recorded on worksheets at baseline and on-study treatment [...] studies for all study subjects were destroyed and are not available for FDA inspectional review.” Without any measurement there is no way to determine any actual efficacy of the treatment, making Burzynski’s claims unsupported and unpublishable.
– Burzynski’s reported success rates are inflated: He “failed to comply with protocol requirements related to the primary outcome, therapeutic response [...] for 67% of study subjects reviewed during the inspection.” Nonetheless, these inaccurate outcomes are used to convince dying patients antineoplastons can save them.

Other issues cited by the FDA included:

– Paying patients who failed to meet the inclusion criteria for the study were admitted to Burynski’s trials;
– Burzynski did not report all adverse events as required by his study protocols, and many exhibiting toxic effects were not removed from treatment;
– Adverse events were not reported in a timely fashion (in one case 7 years);
– The FDA received two different versions of a pediatric patient’s records during an inspection, especially significant because the child apparently died of a known side effect of antineoplastons.

Shockingly, these observations were made after a decade of abysmal site reviews by the FDA. Currently, Burzynski’s trials are subject to a partial clinical hold, which means Burzynski is still treating patients already on his protocol.

We are asking that you:

– Encourage the FDA to dissolve the Burzynski Research Institute’s clearly deficient Institutional Review [ethical oversight] Board and toplace a permanent hold on any more cancer patients receiving antineoplastons;
– Investigate how Burzynski has been allowed to conduct experiments on pediatric cancer patients while repeatedly cited for violating rules designed to prevent uncontrolled human experimentation.
– Investigate why the FDA allowed this abysmal researcher to advance to phase 3 clinical trials without publishing a single phase 2 trial;
– Protect cancer patients from abuse through legislation and FDA oversight reform.

Please help end a medical ethics scandal that involves eight times as many patients as the Tuskegee Experiment. I look forward to your response on this important matter.

Click here to Sign the Petition!

Posted in medical woo, politics, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients: Battling Burzynski’s Dangerous BS

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2013

Sometimes pseudoscience is stupid, sometimes it is annoying, sometimes it hurts our educational institutions… and sometimes it is outright frakking deadly.  Case in point, medical frauds who perpetuate nonsense to vulnerable, desperate people; such as when quacks push supposed “cures for cancer” which are anything but or have yet to be proven, such as in the case of Stanislaw Burzynski and his “cancer clinic”.  In such situations, it is literally a matter of life and death because when cancer patients delay reliable medical treatments in favor of pseudoscientific B.S. the delay can cost them their lives.  Skeptic James Randi helps to break it down in more detail here:

The Randi Show – The Burzynski Clinic and Cancer Quacks

But rather than curse the darkness, let us instead light a candle… :)

I am happy to announce that the Skeptical Teacher will be joining a coalition of skeptical activists called the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients (SPCP).  The Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients is a grassroots group devoted to the promotion of promising, ethical, and transparent cancer research. For more about this project and the group sponsoring it, visit thehoustoncancerquack.com or visit their Facebook page.  Also, please consider donating either some of your time  by promoting the cause (if you have a blog or media contacts) and/or your money to the legitimate scientific research of cancer.

Some more background and info on Burzynski:

*Dr. David Gorski has a new Science-Based Medicine post out as of this past Monday on Burzynski’s antineoplastons treatment. Science-Based Medicine » Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s antineoplastons versus patients.

*Burzynski gets warning from FDA: Stop promoting your treatment as “safe” and “effective”

The U.S. FDA has sent a letter to the Burzynski Research Institute to cease claiming that their brain tumor treatment, antineoplastons, are safe and/or effective for the purposed for which they are being investigated. In other words, Burzynski’s claims on websites and promotional materials that this treatment WORKS is a violation because supposed to be testing that!

* Supporters often use patient anecdotes to sell his unproven treatments at the Burzynski Patient Group. We have started curating a collection of patient stories at The OTHER Burzynski Patient Group, the ones Burzynski would rather you not hear. Also, these stories can be exported to your own website IN THEIR ENTIRETY via the storify site they were created on. Free content, people. Just sayin’.

*Orac, an oncologist, cancer researcher, and patient advocate, has written extensively about Burzynski at Respectful Insolence.

*Learn the whole story at Josephine Jones’s Blog. She has kept a comprehensive list of content about Burzynski, his clinic, and his chemotherapy on the web. An invaluable resource!

*You might be interested that the EMPLOYER of one of our members (of SPCP) was recently contacted by one of Burzynski’s misguided supporters.

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Event Honoring Dr. David Gorski & Vaccination Clinic at Dragon*Con!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 18, 2010

This coming Saturday, August 21st, Dr. David Gorski – contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog and author of another popular, yet anonymous, blog – will be coming to Chicago to give a lecture on the anti-vaccination movement and various other topics related to alternative medicine woo. This event is co-presented by the Chicago Skeptics, the Women Thinking Free Foundation (WTFF), and the Center For Inquiry Chicago. Details are at the event’s Facebook page…

Chicago Skeptics, The Women Thinking Free Foundation, and the Center For Inquiry-Chicago, are excited to co-present a talk by and discussion with Dr. David Gorski. A breast cancer surgeon and researcher, Dr. Gorski has been on the front lines of the anti-anti-vaccination movement as well as fighting against pseudoscience disguised as alternative heath care in many realms.

From his Science-Based Medicine bio:
Dr. Gorski first became interested in pseudoscience and “alternative” medicine around 2000, when quite by accident he wandered into the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative and began critically examining the claims there. Since then, he has accumulated considerable experience refuting quackery and pseudoscience online. For the last five years, he has blogged under a pseudonym, producing what is consistently ranked as one of the top ten medical blogs, and is happy to drop his pseudonym in order to join such an accomplished group of skeptical doctors to discuss science- and evidence-based medicine (SEBM) for a broad audience. (Finding Dr. Gorski’s other, far more (in)famous blog persona is left as an exercise for the interested reader.)

Science-Based Medicine Blog: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

Now, the evening of Dr. Gorski’s talk, there is going to be a fundraiser put on by the Chicago Skeptics and the WTFF. The proceeds from this fundraiser are going to go towards a vaccination clinic at Dragon*Con in Atlanta during Labor Day weekend! So, if you’re in the Chicago area this coming weekend, please click the link above to get a ticket to the fundraiser, but if you’re not and you’d like to contribute to this worthy cause, then I refer you to this excellent post over at Skepchick about it :D

As part of the Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated launch at Dragon*Con, the Skepchicks are organizing vaccine clinic during Dragon*Con. We are providing FREE vaccines for any Dragon*Con participants who want them. We’ll also be distributing information and education about vaccinations during the event.

Here’s where we need your help.  While the vaccines and staffing are being provided completely free to us, because of the late notice, we needed to rent space to actually have the clinic.  We are paying for space in the Mall at Peachtree Center, which is connected to the Dragon*Con main hotels and we need to raise some money to cover the rent, plus posters, pamphlets and other materials to help promote this. Our goal is to raise $1,500 which will cover all of that. Elyse and the Women Thinking Free Foundation have already raised $800 for the launch so we need $700 more. Ironically, Elyse can’t come to Dragon*Con. She would have to bring her daughter with her and she can’t risk it because of the pertussis epidemic. So we’re going to be launching this project without her, very sadly.

If you can, please help out by donating a few dollars to this extraordinarily worthy cause. You can donate via PayPal to donate@womenthinkingfree.org or visit the Women Thinking Free Store and donate there.

This is literally an effort that will save lives. And, if you’re at Dragon*Con, come by and get vaccinated!

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Skeptic’s Class Now in Session: The 135th Skeptic’s Circle!

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 23, 2010

Welcome students!  Now that we’re all gathered we can start this biweekly lesson on all things skeptical, paranormal, pseudoscientific, and just plain nutty.  I want to thank you all for allowing me, the Skeptical Teacher, to present these lessons on behalf of my skeptical colleagues.  It’s quite a long class, and I know there are other demands upon your time (the weekend is coming, after all), so let’s get started… notebooks & pencils out, please.  Pay careful attention, because you never know when or where what you learn in Skeptic’s Class will turn out to be useful :)

First off, since I am a teacher & I’m into all that education stuff, I want to let everyone know about a new organization dedicated to providing skeptical outreach & education to women, the Women Thinking Free Foundation (or WTF Foundation ;) ).  I’m totally promoting this new organization not just because I’m a professional science educator who is interested in seeing more young women become interested in science & skepticism, but also because I happen to be on the WTFF board of directors (so promotion is, like, part of the job description).  Here’s more info about the WTFF…

Our goal as an organization is to bring science, skepticism and critical thinking to the women of the Midwest. We’re planning some great events, campaigns and outreach programs to help provide women with the tools to fight pseudoscience.

Our next lesson comes from Phil over at Skeptic Money, where he puts a new, modern twist on The Last Supper – he calls it Last Supper With Scientists, where rather than revering various religious figures from Christianity one can bask in the imagery of famous scientists both past & present who have made arguably greater contributions to humanity than most religious figures.  Can you guess who they are without peeking at Phil’s blog for the answers?…

Our next lesson comes from Down Under… Kylie at the well-known Podblack Cat blog has decided to share a few tidbits with us.  First, there’s her list of skeptical Podblack Finds For 18th April 2010 – which include, among other things, a controversy over something called “Clitoraid” (sounds sexy), a tutorial on scientific skepticism, and superstitions about the money spider.  Her second post is a very interesting take on a subject I’ve never seen addressed before – the issue of Deafness and Skepticism. Check it out!

The 360 Degree Skeptic then follows with a lesson that is of interest to many a skeptic, the question of Biblical fallibility, which is outlined in his post on Biblical Claims and Science. In a post that examines a more contemporary issue, he then goes on to explore the question of self-esteem as related to race and how “we would be wise to heed the quiet” of the neglected null in various forms of psychology research.

Next, Dr. Martin Rundkvist publishes a book review for us on how a U.S. sociologist travels to Denmark to study the Scandinavian view on religion and discovers that they pretty much don’t care about it, displaying a marked contrast to how the issue is often addressed (by both the religious & non-religious) in other parts of the world.  The book is by Phil Zuckerman and is titled “Society Without God”, and Dr. Rundkvist’s comments can be read here.

Following that we have a few posts addressing a variety of medical woo, specifically a pair of posts on that skeptics’ favorite – homeopathy (one from Skeptics North and another from Science-Based Pharmacy).  The folks at Skeptics North take on a popular homeopathic “remedy” called Traumeel while over at SBP they address the question of Homeopathy and Consumer Protection. In addition, the SBP takes some time to examine some… interesting claims regarding whether or not green tea & chili peppers can burn fat.

Our next guest is new to both blogging and the Skeptic’s Circle!  Please welcome the librarian from the Labyrinthine Library, who is talking today about how recent earthquakes, volcanoes, and other assorted natural disasters are not evidence for The End of the World. In addition to referencing some nice earth science, the librarian also does a cool historical analysis on the topic and concludes – surprise! – there is nothing to fear.

Last, but not least, over at the Stuff and Nonsense blog we have a very informative post regarding how some doctors are continuing to push various forms of anti-vaccination woo.  Some of these woo-ish arguments are new to me, so if battling anti-vax is something that interests you, head on over to read all about it.

Well, that’s all for now, thanks for attending.  I hope you took good notes, because there’s going to be a quiz!  Yes, I know I didn’t tell you that ahead of time, but you – as a dedicated student of skepticism – should be prepared to stand up for science & rationality at any time, announced or not.

See you in a couple of weeks, on May 6th, for the next class over at 360 Degree Skeptic! :)

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Last Call for Skeptic’s Circle Submissions!

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 20, 2010

For those of you who have submitted posts already for the 135th Skeptic’s Circle, thank you!  If you haven’t submitted a post yet, please do so within the next 24 hours or so – my goal is to have all posts in by about 6pm Central Standard Time (in the U.S.) on Wednesday evening, so that I have plenty of time to assemble them all into one coherent rant… errr, blog entry ;)

Send submissions to me at this address: marsmattus [at] yahoo [dot] com

Please make the subject title obvious, as I get a lot of spam and I don’t want to delete your post by accident.  And if you miss the deadline by a wee bit, go on and submit something anyway – I might be able to work it in.

Cheers – Matt

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Submissions for 135th Skeptic’s Circle

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 15, 2010

If you plan to submit a blog post for the upcoming Skeptic’s Circle on Thursday, April 22nd, send them to me at marsmattus [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.  Try to get your entries to me by about 6pm Central Standard Time next Wednesday evening, so that I have enough time to get them all assembled into a fine skeptical lesson for our readers.  See you then! :)

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

134th Skeptic’s Circle @ Divisible By Pi

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 10, 2010

The latest installment of the biweekly Skeptic’s Circle is now online over at the Divisible By Pi blog. It’s an odd-sounding name for a blog, but the author – Richard – explains: All of the nicest angles are divisible by pi. If you’ve done any first year university maths subjects, this should make immediate sense to you — the rest of you, likely, are going to require a bit more convincing.

Nice.  In any case, it is a nice read, so go on and check it out…

Btw, the 135th Skeptic’s Circle is going to be hosted right here on April 22nd!  Watch this space! :)

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

133rd Skeptic’s Circle @ The Digital Cuttlefish

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 26, 2010

After skipping a beat, the Skeptic’s Circle is back with the 133rd installment.  This particular installment is full of the standard skeptical message, but packaged in quite creative poetry & prose by the talented Digital Cuttlefish – in fact, my particular entries were met with a very succinct & complementary poem: “Skeptical Teachers, Are wonderful creatures.” :)

Go on and check it out!

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131st Skeptic’s Circle @ Providentia

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 26, 2010

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks and now it’s time for another round of the biweekly Skeptic’s Circle. This installment is hosted at the Providentia blog – a place where the author takes “A Biased Look at Psychology in the World”.  And what’s the theme of the Circle this time around?  Let’s just say that court is now in session on the woo-meisters…

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130th Skeptic’s Circle @ The Lay Scientist

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2010

Time for another bi-weekly visit from the Skeptic’s Circle!  This time our host is none other than Martin over at The Lay Scientist blog, a place that advertises “Our articles are cleverer than our slogans.”  There’s some pretty interesting reading in this installment, so go on over and get started…

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