Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seriously now

"We interrupt this broadcast." Don't worry, normal service waffle about Doctor Who, comic books and bad Pierce Brosnan movies will resume shortly but this is important.

A sceptical blogger wrote a piece about the Burzynski clinic, an American facility which charges thousands of pound to treat people with cancer with its "pioneering" Antineoplaston treatment. This has been in the news recently because of some high profile campaigns to raise funds to send British patients to Texas for this treatment.

We can all understand how the parents of a child with incurable cancer will look for any possibility of hope at all, and likewise we can see why well-meaning celebrities would lend their support to fund-raising. However, we have to consider whether such a treatment actually works. Many of the newspaper articles about the Burzynski clinic mention that the treatments are "not available on the NHS". There may be a reason for that.

The Burzynski clinic make the chemicals they call Antineoplastons, which are normally found in urine. In keeping with my Doctor Who theme this sounds as pseudo-scientific as reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. However it is still possible that the treatment might do something You can read more about it on this useful site from the US National Cancer Institute. The important thing to note is that there have been no randomised, controlled trials of the treatment to date.

In the spirit of scientific openness we might expect Dr Buryznski and his colleagues to welcome enquiries and discussions about his treatment. Instead the clinic has responded to the original blog and others with threats of legal action written in the most bizarre fashion. Again you can read some of the email threats here.

Interestingly the resulting blog frenzy has brought a lot of attention to bear on the Burzynski clinic in another ironic example of the Streisand effect. If they had kept quiet then the original posting might have sunk without trace.

Anyway, you can read the various websites and make up your own mind. However, to show my support for the original blogger and oppose the irrational threats to free speech and critical enquiry I will add the following:

That's it. Thanks for reading. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

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