Recently a heart-breaking story captured the attention of thousands of people around the country. It had major national newspapers as well as high profile celebrities pledging their support...
It was the story of Billie Bainbridge - a seriously ill four-year-old girl with an inoperable brain tumour. Having exhausted treatment options here in the UK, Billie's family hoped to raise around £200,000 for her to receive 'pioneering' treatment at the Burzynski Clinic in America. Following an article in The Observer by Luke Bainbridge, her uncle and a musician in his own right, her plight received widespread attention.
Thousands of people got behind it - notably comedian Peter Kay announced that two of his gigs would be hosted in her honour. Others including comedian Justin Moorhouse, the bands Badly Drawn Boy, I Am Kloot and Everything Everything all dedicated performances to raise money. Popular celebrities such as Cheryl Cole, Michael Buble, Anthony Cotton and Professor Green all got behind the effort. Even ITV's Dr. Hilary Jones seemed to lend his support to this 'cutting edge' treatment in his popular morning TV slot. This seemed like Billie's only real hope for a cure and everyone was ready to get her the help she desperately needed.
However, what people are not so aware of is that the story also received the attention of a number of health professionals - all of whom had some very serious concerns. A number of doctors, researchers, skeptics and cancer specialists, including Cancer Research UK, all expressed their worry over the media campaign created to promote this 'pioneering' treatment. Their reasons? Well, some of them make worrying reading in themselves…
- Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski single-handedly founded the clinic and developed the so-called ‘cure’ to cancer. However, the reality is that modern medical cures rarely stem from single individuals - they are the result of extensive collaboration between teams of professionals. Also, these breakthroughs need to be tested and assessed properly to ensure that they live up to their claims. This is not the case here.
- Cancer is not a single entity – and there is no single cure. If this was the case, the chances are we would have discovered it and be using it in practice by now. Why has nobody else even ackowledged let alone tried Burzynski's 'cure'?
- Dr. Burzynski claims that his cure (called ‘antineoplastons’) can be extracted from urine (yes – it’s literally a p***-taking treatment) and used to treat cancer. Nobody has been able to reliably prove this. In fact, there isn’t any good evidence that it actually works at all. This is why the treatment is not formally approved in the US – but it has been given the OK to be tested in a trial.
- The Burzynski Clinic charges people hundreds of thousands of pounds to take part in these trials. Any medical professional will tell you that no legitimate trial should ever have to charge patients these ridiculous sums of money to enrol - in fact there is an argument that there should not be a charge at all.
- These trials have been going on since 1977 with no real results – why is it taking so long if this is the revolutionary new cure we have been searching for? It's already taken 35 years! When will these trials end? It’s fair to say that there is no incentive for the clinic to stop these trials because they make more money if they continue.
- Representatives from the clinic have sent threatening e-mails to people who have attempted to ascertain the truth, including a 17-year-old blogger as well as personal threats to the families of others (e.g. Andy Lewis of the (fantastic) popular debunking site Quackometer). If you are a researcher taking part in a proper trial you have no need to act so defensively and aggressively to people questioning your work. In fact, debate about research should be encouraged. Something to hide?
- Some former patients are now taking the clinic to court because of claims of fraudulent extraction of money.
- Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski has already been convicted of fraud and is actually facing a hearing at the Texas State Medical Board to revoke his medical licence.
Despite all of these serious reservations, the real truth continues to receive little media exposure. The scary reality is that this family, and hundreds of others like them, are potentially falling for one of the biggest scams of our time. Here is a real family, with a really sick child, with a very real illness being offered a very false hope.
I completely understand why these families feel compelled to try this therapy. When you have a child with cancer you will try anything at all that might offer a glimmer of hope – however, this clinic is preying on people who are desperate with no real proof of a cure. It's just not right and it’s not fair. One thing is certain though, the bill for treatment is hefty.
Unfortunately, the Burzynski Clinic is only one of many predatory establishments or therapists offering potential 'cures' for cancer with very little evidence. Thousands of people are falling for these health scams and suffering because of them. Many people have deteriorated or even died by putting their faith in these false hopes. The problem is that no-one ever hears the shocking truth.
We need to do our best to highlight the real, shocking and horribly sad truth behind these so-called pioneering 'treatments' and those that push them. Too many people have suffered and this must stop before anymore children and families are misled, mistreated and harmed.