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Cancer doctor on trial in Houston

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January 8, 1997
Web posted at: 1:30 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Charles Zewe

HOUSTON (CNN) -- When Robert and Leslie Graham's son had brain cancer, the outlook was grim. He was given a 20 per cent chance to live.

Today the cancer is gone; 5-year-old Robbie's tumor is shrinking. And the federal government wants to put his doctor in jail.


Federal prosecutors say Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, who has drawn hundreds of patients from across the country, has violated federal drug rules and defrauded insurance companies in dispensing his experimental cancer drug known as anti-neoplaston.

The Polish-born physician discovered the compound in human urine and now makes it synthetically. He claims it turns off cancer genes by interrupting signals for cells to multiply.

Patients rally for Burzynski


The government says he can't prove that.

As his trial got under way, dozens of Burzynski's patients and their relatives rallied to his defense outside the federal courthouse. Among them were the Grahams, with their son.

"If they take his medicine now," said Leslie Graham, "the cancer will come back and he'll die."

The government says Burzynski has thumbed his nose at Food and Drug Administration rules designed to protect the sick, and has made $40 million doing it.

"We are trying to save their lives," says Dr. Burzynski, "but against us are bureaucrats for whom their lives mean nothing."

Value of drug may not be decided


Not everyone who has gone to Burzynski has improved.

KNWS-TV anchor Sydney Seaward, suffering from breast cancer, sought treatment after tumors spread to her brain and lungs, but gave up after having severe side effects.

"I was very disappointed by the experiences," says Seaward. "I feel I was set back."

Seaward has since undergone conventional radiation.

Whether anti-neoplastons actually work may not even come up during the trial. The judge says it's not relevant, but the defense contends that is exactly the point -- that what was done in developing the drug and administering the drug was done to save lives.

The trial is expected to last about two months. The jury may then decide whether Burzynski is a fraud or a medical pioneer.


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