Monday, June 13, 2011

The Geniuses and the
Other Guys

 Burzynski's Cure and Coley's Lost Cure

The extraordinary documentary on Dr. Stanislow Burzynski has been making the rounds the past few days. Born in Poland, Burzynski now practices medicine in Houston, Texas, where he pioneered cancer therapy with antineoplastons, nontoxic peptides in the human body that prevent cancers. Burzynski discovered that cancer patients were deficient in antineoplastons and has been successfully treating patients with them for two decades.  His nontoxic treatment is far more successful that most current toxic chemotherapies and radiation, particularly for patients with brain cancer who haven’t had prior chemo and radiation.

Burzynski versus the government
While Burzynski has recorded phenomenal success treating patients, the FDA has tried to shut him down repeatedly.  The agency has taken him to court several times and tried—unsuccessfully —to haul him off to jail, while the National Cancer Institute initiated antineoplaston drug trials using too-low dosages to discredit Burzynski’s discovery, and the government managed to secure patents for antineoplastons, which Burzynski had already secured years earlier. 

My mother's cancer
Back in 1995, my mother was suffering from colon cancer.  My father, a physician, contacted Burzynski, who said that his treatment didn’t work for colon cancer—at least at that time.  So my mother endured the standard chemo—the aptly named 5FU—and died in 1998.

After she died, I started researching chemo drugs like 5FU and realized how useless most standard chemotherapy was for most tumors (the exceptions are testicular cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and Wilms’ tumor).  Boy, was I pissed; I realized how duped I had been. (My father knew 5FU wouldn't cure my mother, but what else was there?)  Reading cancer studies—not just the abstracts—I learned that most chemo and radiation shrink tumors but don't extend life, and when the tumors grow back, they’re often far more virulent.  That certainly was the case with my mother’s cancer.

William Coley
In my research, I came across the pioneering cancer research in the late 1800s of Dr. William Coley, a brilliant, handsome New York doctor at Memorial Hospital, which is now called Memorial Sloan Kettering.  His cancer research began in 1890, when Elizabeth Dashiell, a delicate young woman of 17, was diagnosed with bone cancer in her right hand. William Coley, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, was her 28-year-old surgeon.  Since her diagnosis had come early in the course of the disease, amputation of her afflicted arm below the elbow was swift.  Yet she died a few months later. 

Distraught over her death, Coley began poring over old patient records—for what, he wasn’t sure.  As Coley read the dusty charts, he saw that most cancer therapies failed; most of the patients died.  But curiously, one patient who was severely afflicted with sarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissue, did recuperate.  Hospitalized and near death in the fall of 1884, he experienced two outbreaks of a severe skin infection called erysipelas.  Caused by a strep bacterium, the infections resulted in high fevers and roused his sleepy immune system.  The bumpy, plum-sized tumor below his left ear began to shrink and the patient rallied, recovering completely.  When the tenacious Coley tracked the man down, he was well with no cancer recurrence some seven years later.

Uncharted territory
Because Coley’s discovery transpired more than a century ago when the immune system was uncharted territory, the scientist didn’t understand how the patient’s strep infection could bring about a cancer remission.  Nevertheless, the prescient physician thought perhaps he had stumbled across something important—a novel way to treat cancer—and began a series of experiments, injecting first live strep bacterium and later killed strep, as it was safer, into patients with sarcomas.  The first patient he treated recovered completely, many more followed, and the young surgeon soon published his first paper.  

But because scientists didn’t understand how the toxins worked, the treatment was never fully embraced. When Coley’s boss at Memorial, Dr. James Ewing—a snappish widower who liked his chicken rare, his lamb overcooked, and his clothes dated and baggy— decided to champion a new cancer treatment—radiation—the fix was in.  Radiation soon eclipsed Coley's toxins, Coley and Ewing became fierce rivals, and Coley's discovery was relegated to a footnote in cancer research.  In 1965, in what now seems an incredible lapse of judgment, the American Cancer Society consigned Coley’s vaccine to the list of “unproven” cancer drugs, where it joined the crooked ranks of coffee enemas and laetrile.  In fact, his toxins were a more effective cancer treatment than most current chemotherapy and radiation.

Book proposal
After reading about this extraordinary man, a century ahead of his time, I decided to write a book about him, with the working title The Genius and the Other Guy. My agent loved the book proposal but not the title, which he changed to The Lost Cure.  But the publishing houses didn’t go for it in any event.  “Who cares about a failed cancer treatment?” was the common refrain.
Ah!  If only the sheep didn’t dictate what books were sold, what drugs were approved and what scientific discoveries were embraced, we’d all be so much better off, wouldn’t we?

This article is copyright CFS Central 2010. All Rights Reserved. You may quote up to 150 words from this article as long as you indicate in the body of your post (as opposed to a footnote or an endnote) that the excerpt is by Mindy Kitei for CFS Central. You may not reprint more than 150 words from this article on blogs, forums, websites or any other online or print venue. Instead, refer readers to this blog to read the article. 

Public service announcement:  People interested in being treated with the experimental ME/CFS drug Ampligen in the San Francisco Bay area and can afford the circa $2,500 a month that the drug and infusions will cost, please contact:


  1. Mindy, I hope your book gets written and published. Since getting M.E. and watching the shenanigans that have happened in XMRV/HGRV research for M.E. since October 2009, I have become more and more distrustful of medical professionals of all kinds, and especially researchers. This information about a cancer treatment that could have been saving lives for a hundred years really saddens me, but it no longer surprises.

    Patricia Carter

  2. Mindy, I vaguely recall reading that two large clinical trials, one in the late 40s, another in the early 50s, showed aspirin was good at preventing heart attacks. Decades later it was realized aspirin was indeed good at preventing second attacks due to anti-clotting affects. It took decades to be accepted because it was not understood why it worked. Evidence that it does work is not usually enough to influence doctors.

    Alex Young, aka alex3619

  3. Thanks Mindy for sharing the story behind this exciting cancer treatment. Those publishing houses are foolish not to want to publish your book. These days at least you can self-publish on an e-reader format for minimal expensive, so that may be a route to pursue. I agree with your agent on the title though. "The Genius and the Other Guy" sounds like a bad comedy flick. "The Lost Cure" is much more intriguing.

  4. Wow. I have also dreamed about writing a book about William Coley! And a I've had a novel and two textbooks published with two more on contract (two of these being medical textbooks, one about CFS/ME and fibromyalgia, one about poorly known chronic illnesses in general) I probably could get it published, at least in Finland. I have a feeling the story even has movie potential.

    However, I decided against this project because it would require a lot of historical research and I only really enjoy (and know how to do) medical research. :-P But I really hope you'll be able to find a publisher. I'm sure that there must be a publisher somewhere in the world that would see the huge potential in this idea.

  5. The sheep and the 'quackbusters' together. And the latter animal is already at work on the Burzynski movie.

    For example.

    Details of, and urls, for the movie were posted on Cancer Forums on 12 June. The moderator removed the urls instantly (for soliciting - when the point of the post was to tell people the movie was free to view) and banned the poster until 20 June for questioning their decision. Subsequently, a lengthy 'Burzynski is a fraud' post has been made which the original poster can't respond to until Monday. Dare say this will put off many people from watching the movie and making their own decision about the treatments because they would rather believe the 'quackbuster' than find out their Government has been letting cancer patients die unnecessarily for the last 20 odd years.

  6. Mindy,

    Another idea for a book might chronicle the controversy around many doctors battle to help the autism, lyme, cancer, CFS/ME, GWI, HIV, and others who have been screwed, sued, and abused when finding effective treatments that actually help people or get to the bottom of the root cause of disease.


  7. It seems that money and ego drive the direction of a lot of progress in the world today.

    Just saw "A Beautiful Truth" documentary a few weeks ago. It's also about a cancer therapy. Again a good track record with many people getting well using non-toxic substances. It also got suppressed.

    It advocated a vegetarian diet with no vaccines and included regular coffee enemas. I suppose it threatened the status quo of the big money-making cancer treatments.

  8. Hey Mindy--

    That Burzynski doc was mind boggling... just unbelievable the CRAP that goes on in our government agencies. Or actually, not so unbelievable at all. :(

    Have you considered self-publishing? Just a thought. You can do that through Blurb, Inkubook or Cafe Press. There may be others as well.

    The Geniuses and The Other Guys is a great title. Don't let the sheep stop you!


  9. i watched the vid yesterday, and reading this and the comments, i dither between absolute outrage and complete cynicism. it speaks volumes that people in the leading english speaking countries count on their government for disinformation, corruption and antagonistic disregard for it's sickest members. keep posting.

  10. Mindy - publish the book yourself, and we can help you publicize it. I suspect that is what I am going to end up doing with "Slightly Alive" (because the publishers and agents have deemed it too "kooky" without even reading it ...). I think the time may be ripe for this.

    Talk to Hillary Johnson.

    And I am so sorry about your mother.


  11. It may, perhaps, in addittion to this toxin treatment that worked(s?) that chemo and radiation treatments are not tolerated by some individuals with PON1 Gene (just as CFS/GWI/Lyme/autism/Epilepsy patients with PON1 are the most neurolgically impaired and possibly account for suicide and death). might not be so much the toxin treatment, as the genetic disposition and those patients who are unable to genetically cope with chemo, radiation, molds, os (organosophosopahates-sp?)..viruses, pathogens..etc....

    Just a thought.......Julia...

  12. Mindy, have you read The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer? A very good book...

  13. Thank you for this link, Mindy! I hope you self-publish your book.
    It gives me hope to hear that someone is actually using peptides and amino acids to treat cancer, because these have also been proposed as treatments for HGRVs.
    It is horrifying what Dr. Burzynski has gone through. And to think of all the people who have died of cancer in that time.


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