Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business, Part II – Movie review – directed by Eric Merola

Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business, Part II – directed by Eric Merola Movie Review – March 6th, 2013, in the New Times (USA, CA) – Volume 27, Issue 32

Arts Editor Anna Weltner can be reached at aweltner@newtimesslo.com.

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Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski has been curing cancer for several decades. In the ’60s, the Polish-born medical doctor, who holds a PhD in biochemistry, discovered a group of peptides in the human body. After moving to Houston, Texas, in the ’70s, Burzynski continued his research, discovering that people with cancer also had a lack of peptides in their bodies. Theorizing that replenishing these peptides might help control their disease, he learned to synthesize them, calling them Antineoplastons. But trouble began when Burzynski, after founding The Burzynski Research Institute, Inc., entered the FDA’s clinical trial process, hoping to get his Antineoplastons approved for the market. Director Eric Merola’s film Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business, Part II—which sees its world premiere in San Luis Obispo on Sunday, March 10—is a follow-up to his 2011 documentary Burzynski. Part II is a comprehensive and painstaking look at Burzynski’s astonishing medical breakthrough and all the complicated reasons why, despite many success stories, his methods are still seen as controversial and have yet to be FDA-approved.

A subject like Antineoplastons is a complicated one to bring to a general audience. However, explaining how Burzynski’s treatment works proves far easier than explaining why the FDA continues to reject it, despite deeming it safe. Just as hard to understand is the Internet smear campaign that’s apparently emerged to confuse the public about the treatment, label Burzynski a quack, and harass patients for undergoing Antineoplaston therapy. Merola wisely waits until the documentary is well underway, after the issues and the players involved have been introduced, before showing us this ugly angle. A group calling themselves “The Skeptics” even go so far as to claim that the doctor maintains a cult-like sway over his patients, whom they say he exploits for financial gain. “Skeptic” bloggers make it their mission to spread misinformation, the film asserts, while trying to pass themselves off as concerned citizens. Others create fake websites and Twitter accounts. It’s enough to make one extremely paranoid. When a documentary points to the existence of a conspiracy of such magnitude, it’s hard to know whom to believe.

What if the whole Antineoplaston thing is a hoax? What if? But the testimony of so many oncologists, surgeons, and neurosurgeons negates that possibility. In Japan, Dr. Hideaki Tsuda of Kurume Medical University, where Antineoplastons have been independently tested for 27 years, makes a particularly strong case for their efficacy. When Merola turns his lens on several now-cured cancer patients and their baffled doctors, who watch their tumors shrink to nothing, one can’t help but believe. (Since Burzynski’s treatment is not covered by any insurance plans, patients undergo Antineoplaston therapy with the consent of their doctors and pay for it out of pocket.) Although the high price of treatment is one of the skeptics’ main critiques, records show that the Burzynski Research Institute is only breaking even, and hasn’t earned a profit since its founding.

Particularly compelling is the story of Laura Hymas, a young mother from England who was cured of brain cancer after participating in the FDA’s clinical trial of Burzynski’s Antineoplaston therapy. Hymas’ story lends this highly fact-driven documentary a great deal of heart. Merola has done his homework, and the results are devastating. And just when you think you can’t take any more, a shocking turn of events at the very end of the film will leave viewers in disbelief. (115 mins.) See the world premiere Sunday, March 10, at 2 p.m. at the Fremont Theatre.

Arts Editor Anna Weltner can be reached at aweltner@newtimesslo.com.

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