Reply to Gina Kolata's New York Times
Article on Dr. Burzynski

© 1996 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.

[I can't say I was surprised when The Times did not publish this angry letter. For more information abou Gina Kolata see our article on "The Flap Over Angiostatin & Endostatin."]

Gina Kolata's article on Dr. Stanislaw R. Burzynski ("Alternative Medicine: Doctor's Cancer 'Cure' Attacked by F.D.A." July 24, 1996) represents a new low in the New York Times' generally negative reporting on alternative cancer treatments.

The article is not only inaccurate in many details, but lacks the impartiality and open-mindedness that is required of good science writing. In fact, there are so many things wrong with Kolata's article that it is hardly worth the effort of refuting it. I will however focus on just a few areas.

Ms. Kolata not only maligns the doctor but portrays his patients in a very negative light. They are depicted as "desperate" people who "slouch" in his office, "take refuge in prayer," give "tearful testimony," but then "attack" doctors who disagree with them. I have been to Dr. Burzynski's clinic, most recently this spring. Apparently, she did not see the dignified and heroic individuals I saw there.

Kolata points out that most doctors whose patients have gone to Burzynski won't speak out publicly about their impressions of that treatment, especially if the results have appeared positive.

But speaking out in defense of Burzynski and his patients can be dangerous. In May, 1995, all my own records of correspondence with Dr. Burzynski were suddenly subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorneys Office. The subpoena was served on me by a representative of the Food and Drug Administration. It was only after I mounted a vigorous legal defense that this subpoena was withdrawn. The experience was chilling, and I am a journalist, not a medical practitioner. I believe that fear of the FDA (and not fear of Dr. Burzynski's supporters, as she claims) deters most doctors from speaking out on Burzynski's behalf.

Ms. Kolata ends her article with the story of 17-year-old Brendan Borek, who was treated by Dr. Burzynski in 1991. By Kolata's account, Brendan was declared totally incurable by his conventional doctors and went to Dr. Burzynski in desperation. According to his parents, they became disillusioned and "deciding that there was no evidence that the treatment worked." They abandoned the treatment after just three weeks and Brendan died six months later.

The story is certainly tragic, but what exactly does it prove? That Dr. Burzynski's treatment does not effect miracles in less than a month? That some of his patients die? That some of his patients are disaffected?

Is three weeks enough time to judge the effectiveness of any cancer therapy in such an advanced case? Why are we not told what the Boreks actually learned about Dr. Burzynski in this time that made them change their minds? Did Kolata explore the possibility that Brendan and his family were swayed by all the negative publicity about Burzynski, of which this article is just a tiny part?

I appeal to the readers (and staff) of the Times to exercise the greatest degree of caution in reading stories such as this. Has the Times ever made you aware of its own links to the medical establishment? Do you know that Richard L. Gelb, chairman of the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb, the largest chemotherapy company in the world, for many years was a board member of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the New York Times Corporation?

Finally, I must comment on the word "cure" in Kolatas headline and article. Take a look at Dr. Burzynski's publicity material, such as his Internet Web site: the word "cure" does not occur there. It is the American Cancer Society, an enemy of Dr. Burzynski, that does most of the cure-mongering in our society. (Remember interferon? interleukin-2?)

Kolata paid one brief visit to Burzynski and found him "frenetic," arrogant, unconcerned with patients, etc.

I have visited him four times, spent many hours talking with him and seen him in action with patients. I believe he is a good man who also happens to be an excellent and caring physician. His patients, overwhelmingly, love him. Plus, he has identified a class of compounds which appear to have significant activity in a number of cancers, and this fact has been recognized by site visitors from the National Cancer Institute...

Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.

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