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:


The culture medium for the vaccines that many of us have received over the years includes cells from animals. It’s possible that these cells have harbored animal viruses or retroviruses, which subsequently piggybacked their way, via the vaccines, into humans.  Here are some of those vaccines:
Polio vaccine:  Monkey kidney tissue
Polio vaccine:  Mouse brain
Japanese encephalitis vaccine: Mouse brain
Rabies vaccine:  Rhesus fetal lung tissue
Rotovirus vaccine: Monkey kidney tissue
Vaccinia (smallpox) vaccine: Monkey kidney cell
Yellow fever vaccine; flu vaccine; rabies vaccine:  chicken embryo

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Got Some 'Splainin' to Do

I sent this email to Dr. Jay Levy, co-author of the recent XMRV-negative paper published in Science last week:

I’m a science reporter and blogger on CFS Central.  I read this quote by you on Bloomberg today [Tuesday, May 31], and have a few questions about it:

“When that paper came out I was totally surprised and suspicious,” Levy said today in a telephone interview. 
“Who knew there would be pressure on the government to do these expensive studies? I’ve never been around anything quite so dramatic and misleading and misunderstood for so long. There are financial ramifications, and medical and health ramifications.”

  • Why were you “surprised and suspicious” when the 2009 Mikovits study was published?
  • What do mean by “dramatic and misleading and misunderstood”?  Are you talking about CFS or XMRV or something else?
  • What financial, medical and health ramifications are you referencing?
  • On another note, the groups that funded your study are not listed by name. Sources have informed me that the HHV6 Foundation helped fund the study. Is that correct?
I would appreciate a response by end of business Friday.

Levy didn't reply.


Friday, June 3, 2011


It's not going to stop
'Til you wise up

Yesterday, I responded to Dr. Steven Salzberg's diatribe in Forbes against XMRV and Dr. Judy Mikovits.  Today Salzberg responded to me, and then I to him.

"Ah, the Galileo gambit! Thanks Mindy, for illustrating a classic logical fallacy. You compare Mikovits to Galileo – the implication being that if the “establishment” disagrees with a scientist, then that scientist much be a brilliant revolutionary thinker. At the same time you would imply that those of us who disagree with Mikovits are just too dumb or too stubborn to understand her new ideas. Sorry, not falling for it. (See Orac’s discussion,, or the RationalWiki, for more on this gambit.)

"And about replications: yes, there are multiple studies that attempted to replicate Mikovits’ result, and they all failed. Neither Mikovits nor you gets to dictate what a “replication” is. The whole point is that these are independent studies, which means the scientists conducting them get to decide how best to test the original claims. The peer-review process then evaluates whether or not the follow-up studies are worth publishing."

CFS Central reply:
No, Steven, that’s not what I was implying. I’m not saying that Judy Mikovits is right and the other researchers are wrong. What I am saying is that no one will know the truth until her study is replicated precisely.

What I’m also saying is that the history of science–and everything else for that matter–is filled with outside-the-box thinkers who were right but who were excoriated by a myopic status quo. Could this be the case with the Mikovits finding? Only time will tell.

That is one reason why, in my view, people shouldn’t be so quick to judge. The late physicist and science historian Thomas Kuhn, who authored the groundbreaking book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, believed the lag between the emergence and acceptance of new ideas is natural and inevitable. Change, he postulated, can come about only after long periods of stasis because “frameworks must be lived with and explored before they can be broken.”

Compounding the inertia, and contrary to popular belief, Kuhn held that most scientists are not objective and independent thinkers. Rather they are rigid conservatives who do their best to implement exactly what they’ve been taught.

As far as these XMRV “replications,” clearly you haven’t read these studies carefully. Not one has been a bona fide replication. I’ve interviewed many of the authors of these studies for my blog, CFS Central, and they agreed that their studies weren’t replications.

For instance, Dr. Kate Bishop, the principal investigator of one of the British studies, said that a key reason her cohort didn’t adhere to the Mikovits protocol is that she believes it’s tougher to get a paper published when the experiment is conducted in exactly the same way as the original study.

Dr. Myra McClure, the principal investigator of the first British study, said that her study “was never designed to replicate [the Mikovits] study or to say, ‘Look how clever we are, and they’re wrong,’ she says. “It was simply an investigation to see if we in this country could detect this virus in our CFS patients that were homegrown here.”

To your point that “neither Mikovits nor you gets to dictate what a ‘replication’ is,” consider cracking open a 9th grade science book. In Biology, by Stephen Nowicki, published by McDougal Littell in 2008, the author explains what a replication is:

“Scientists repeating another person’s experiment must be able to follow the procedures exactly and obtain the same results in order for the experiment to be valid. Valid experiments must have

• a testable hypothesis
• a control group and an experimental group
• defined independent and dependent variables
• all other conditions held constant
• repeated trials”

Got it? All conditions must be held constant for the experiment to be valid. That’s the definition of a replication, not what you decide, or what I decide or what any researcher on the planet decides.

And a replication is certainly not, as you claim, a free-for-all in which “scientists conducting them get to decide how best to test the original claims.” When you change things up, you introduce variables that may account for a different result.

Once again, I urge you to sit down and read the XMRV studies carefully before making judgments.

Scene from the movie Magnolia. Aimee Mann wrote the accompanying song, "Wise Up."