About Me

"I am a family physician and public health specialist, and have lived and worked in Africa, Asia and North America. I am passionate about health-care development and am a co-founder and director of Healtheon Asia.

This is a collection of my thoughts, travels and things I can't otherwise classify."
- Dr Armid Azadeh

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cancer Hopes - Burzynski Clinic

If you have researched the Burzynski Clinic and Research Institute on the internet then I have no doubt that you have encountered very polarized opinions ranging from the avid supporter to the vehement sceptic. I would like to give you an overview of the treatment they offer and my personal perspective as to why Healtheon is collaborating with them.

The media and internet comments generally portray The Burzynski Clinic as an alternative cancer treatment facility. This is where the majority of the scepticism comes from I believe, as they have been lumped together with the likes of Gerson and other treatment modalities that truly have no scientific evidence. Burzynski has also been labelled as pseudo-science, in attempting to gain credibility in scientific eyes by publishing loads of poorly designed data. This is what formed the basis of my initial scepticism.

The buzz word in cancer therapy now is gene-targeted therapy. The largest oncology centres around the world are increasingly using gene targeted medication which is seen as the future of oncology, of which there are over 40 registered now I believe, in treating the various kinds of cancer that patients present with. Each medication has a particular indication for which it has gained FDA and other medicines control councils' registration (so for example x drug is indicated for colon cancer with x gene marker). This is exactly what the Burzynski clinic has been doing, but to a greater degree, and with more individualized therapy.

Through my visit to the clinic and laboratory facilities, in meeting their team, and witnessing their approach to patient consultations and treatment regimens, I gained confidence in what they are offering. The vast majority of patients who walk in their doors have already undergone surgical resection, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and have either had poor responses or have had relapses. The team of oncologists consult together regarding each individual case and decide upon an investigation and then treatment plan.

The investigations include prior biopsy results analysis, further imaging, and further genetic marker testing on new biopsies if necessary. If the particular cancer displays a certain gene marker known to current science, then the most appropriate medication is prescribed. The majority of cases I witnessed in the clinic were prescribed gene targeted medication from the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world that are routinely used in MD Anderson for instance (the 40 odd that I mentioned previously). It must be noted however, that the team assembled at Burzynski is very much on the cutting edge of gene targeted research and as such do take it upon themselves to prescribe these drugs off-label if it be in the interest of the patient. So for instance a drug that has been registered for colon cancers displaying a particular gene marker, would be used off label for a liver cancer that has also displayed that gene. Patient responses are then actively monitored through gene marker testing in ascertaining whether there is a response to the medication, and thus decrease in the pathologic gene marker.

This entire aspect of the treatment regime of the Burzynski clinic which can be seen as mainstream but cutting edge cancer treatment is not questioned, as it is what the largest oncology centres around the world are employing and at times trying to replicate. What has brought all the scrutiny and negative professional opinion is the use of Antineoplastons, which is the "broad-spectrum" gene targeting medication discovered by Dr Burzynski. It is this medication that continues to be used under clinical trials.

This medication is reserved for patients with inoperable brainstem cancers for which FDA trials were conducted previously and are ongoing, since no other treatment modality exists. For patients who have come in after exhausting "conventional" treatments, and those that do not display any gene markers covered by the specific gene-targeting medication that exist, special FDA compassionate permission is applied for in utilizing Antineoplastons as a "final resort", as there exists no other options. In these cases, permission is usually obtained and treatment is commenced. It is believed that these Antineoplastons can target over 100 of the cancer genes and is considered a broad-spectrum (shot-gun) approach when there are few other options. Burzynski believes in this drug and the research institute is continually trying to improve it, test it, and ultimately have it gain full registration. The documentaries have largely covered this struggle.

There was no instance in patient interactions where false hope was given. Each patient was treated with a respect and dignity that I generally fail to see in normal medical institutions. It is true that patients are usually desperate and often this is their last chance, but the impression that Antineoplastons are some miracle drug is not given and as such I am happy for us to continue working with the Burzynski clinic, moreso because of their overall approach to cancer treatment, and the results which they seem to be getting. I don't know whether Antineoplastons truly work or not but I feel that it is irrelevant in the sense that it is considered an experimental drug and is treated as such by the Burzynski clinic, which employs cutting-edge individualized gene targeted therapy essentially.

1 comment:

  1. This post was originally posted on a couple other blogs, namely Healtheon Asia and Offshore Joe's. There were some comments on them but since I've resurrected this personal blog I decided to bring it back home.