CancerGuide: Alternative and Complementary Therapies
Note: This article is now substantially out of date - there is considerable new information, but I have not had the time to update the article to reflect it. I continue to believe that it is likely that antineoplastons are active in some brain tumors. It also looks like it is not active in some other types of tumors. My current advice is not to even consider it unless you have information or can gain it that suggests the treatment can be effective in your specific type of cancer.
Antineoplastons are an alternative therapy developed by Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D. Ph.D. In my opinion, this is one of the the best documented alternative therapies and one of the most likely to have some real effectiveness. Unlike most proponents of alternative therapies, Dr. Burzynski has published extensively in the medical literature (references below). This includes more than a few human clinical trials. In 1991, an expert team from the National Cancer Institute examined patient records at the clinic for seven patients with brain tumors, and concluded that there were responses to the treatment, thus providing some important independent confirmation for Burzynski's treatment. The major disadvantages of the treatment are that it is quite expensive, with costs in the tens of thousands per year, and that patients have to travel to Dr. Burzynski's clinic in Houston, Texas to receive the treatment.
(Note that their web page used to have detailed information on antineoplastons, including an extensive bibliography, copies of all open protocols, and copies of some of the independent inspections. Shamefully, as far as I can tell, the current incarnation [Dec 2002], while much slicker than the old one, literally does not even contain the word "antineoplaston". It does contain lots of wonderful platitudes. At best, this is a sad case of marketing driven replacement of solid information with content-free drivel.)
An Independent Line of Evidence
Phenylacetate is a metabolite of the amino acid phenylalanine, and composes 80% of antineoplaston A2S-1. An NCI team is currently researching this compound, and has published a paper reporting some encouraging results from a phase I trial involving brain tumor and prostate cancer patients. More recently, M.D. Prados et. al. reported preliminary results of a phase II trial of phenylacetate in recurrent gliomas. (1996 ASCO abstract 288). 2/23 patients had a partial response and 3/23 had a minor response. The authors concluded that "Phenylacetic acid appears to be well tolerated and an active agent in recurrent malignant gliomas." Although these results lend credence to the notion that PA can have an effect on these tumors, I also don't see a high rate of 'miracle cures' here either. Dose and schedule can have a major effect on efficacy of drug treatments. Burzynski may use a different dose and schedule than Prados et al. used. or perhaps there is some synergy with Phenylacetyl Glutamine, the other 20% of Antineoplaston A2S-1. More trials are in progress. In my view, the results with phenylacetate by investigators with no connection to Burzynski is independent confirmation that this class of compounds has anti- tumor effect, although a high rate of "miracle cures" certainly has not been confirmed. Still, any independent confirmation of an alternative therapy is a rare and promising circumstance.
The Cancellation of Independent Antineoplaston Trials
As a result of NCI's site review of the Burzynski Clinic, NCI sponsored clinical trials in brain tumors were begun at NCI and Sloan Kettering, a very promising development. Unfortunately these trials have been canceled due to problems accruing patients and a disagreement over widening of the protocol entry criteria to permit inclusion of patients with more advanced disease. In my view, these cancellations are most unfortunate, but are neither evidence against antineoplaston treatment, nor evidence of any grand conspiracy against it.
As I write this (1/97) Dr. Burzynski is on trial in a federal courtroom in Houston, Texas for, I think, permitting antineoplastons to be shipped out of Texas. According to a patient who is a member of my local support group and who has enjoyed several years of stability from his recurrent prostate cancer under antineoplaston therapy, the trial does not cover questions of whether antineoplastons do or don't work. Only whether the technical violations charged were in fact committed. Clearly Dr. Burzynski's legal troubles are entirely irrelevant to the question of whether his treatment actually works. His legal troubles do not mean that he is a quack. They might mean that he broke some rules. I also don't think his legal troubles mean that the establishment is suppressing a cancer cure because they are afraid it might work. Rather, I think Dr. Burzynski is under attack because he has chosen to develop his treatment outside the system and outside the rules. It is evident that the government agencies which are trying to shut him down and put him in jail care more about their rules than about whether the treatment actually helps cancer patients or not. Seems to me they've got their priorities backwards.
A Patient's Story
I recently (10/95) talked to a man here in Boulder, Mr. R., about his experiences at the Burzynski clinic. Mr. R. was not referred to me by anyone connected with the clinic - I just happened to be seeing him about something else. He spoke very highly of the clinic staff, and said that they followed him much more carefully and closely than any other doctors he had been to. He also said that, despite the high cost of treatment, Dr. Burzynski seemed to be quite willing to "forgive" much of the cost of treatment and to negotiate with patients who were unable to pay the full cost. Mr. R. said that he'd paid less than half of the cost and that the clinic had not made any attempt whatsoever to get him to pay. He also told me that some patients were actually getting their insurance companies to pay for treatment at the Burzynski clinic. All or any of this is obviously just one man's observations and experience and is also subject to change, so look before you leap! I still think the high costs are disturbing, and Mr. R. still paid a lot of money for the treatment.
Mr. R. appears to have gotten something for his money, however. Mr. R. went to the Burzynski treatment for prostate cancer widely metastatic to his bones. Over the three years of his treatment there, his bone metastases were controlled with disappearance of several by bone scan and a major reduction in pain. Mr. R's PSA score at the start of treatment was not extremely elevated at seven, but it did drop below four, the upper level of normal for a time. Mr. R. was on lupron during his treatment at the clinic, but his bone metastases showed up during his treatment with lupron, so the lupron was not responsible for the improvements. Mr. R. eventually had to discontinue treatment due to side effects that showed after a period of time on treatment. These included nausea and fatigue. Mr. R. experienced progression of his disease after he discontinued treatment, and died of his cancer several months later.
Paul Leverett's Story on CancerGuide
Read Paul Leverett's Amazing Story of response and extended survival with the worst possible brain tumor, brain stem glioblastoma multiforme.
This CancerGuide Page By Steve Dunn. © Steve Dunn
Page Created: 1995, Last Updated: January 3, 2003