Antineoplaston therapy is an experimental cancer treatment. It was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski. To date, there’s not enough evidence to prove it’s an effective treatment for cancer.
Continue reading to learn more about antineoplaston therapy, the theory behind it, and why you should be cautious.
Antineoplastons are naturally occurring chemical compounds. They’re found in blood and urine. These compounds are made up of amino acids and peptides.
Burzynski used antineoplastons separated from human blood and urine as he was developing his treatment. Since the 1980s, antineoplastons have been manufactured from chemicals.
Our bodies are constantly replacing old cells with new ones. Cancer develops when something goes wrong with this replication process.
With cancer, abnormal cells begin to grow and divide at a much faster pace than they normally would. At the same time, older cells don’t die off as they should.
As abnormal cells pile up, tumors start to form. If nothing interferes with this process, tumors continue to grow and spread, or metastasize.
Burzynski believes antineoplastons are part of our natural defense system and that they help prevent abnormal cell growth. He suggests that some people don’t have enough of them, which allows cancer to develop and grow unchecked.
By adding more antineoplastons, the theory is that those substances may:
- switch cancer cells off so they start to behave like healthy cells
- cause cancer cells to die without affecting healthy cells
Antineoplastons can be taken orally or injected into the bloodstream.
There haven’t been enough clinical trials to understand the full range and severity of possible side effects. In trials that have been conducted to date, side effects may include:
- abnormal calcium levels in the blood
- dry skin, rash
- fever, chills
- frequent urination
- gas, bloating
- irregular heartbeat
- joint swelling, stiffness, pain
- nausea, vomiting
- slurred speech
- swelling near the brain
- vein inflammation (phlebitis)
We also need more information on how antineoplastons interact with:
- other medications
- dietary supplements
There have been studies that indicate a positive response to treatment. However, these studies have been conducted at Burzynski’s own clinic, so they’re biased.
They also weren’t randomized controlled studies, which are considered the gold standard of research. Some study participants had standard treatment in addition to antineoplastons. That makes it difficult to know the actual cause of positive responses and side effects.
Researchers not associated with the clinic have been unable to replicate Burzynski’s results. There are no studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. There have been no phase III randomized controlled trials of antineoplastons as a cancer treatment.
Clinical trials generally go on for a few years. Burzynski’s trials have continued for decades.
When looking at any alternative or experimental treatments for cancer, take a good hard look at the evidence.
There are several steps that must be taken before a treatment can advance to human trials. Research starts with laboratory and animal studies. Even when those results are promising, it doesn’t prove safety and effectiveness in people.
The next step is to submit study design and safety information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With its approval, researchers can proceed with clinical trials. There are several phases of clinical trials:
- Phase I. These trials usually involve a small number of people. The focus is on the safety rather than the effectiveness of the treatment.
- Phase II. These trials involve a larger number of people. They typically get the same treatment at the same dose, though some phase II trials may be randomized. At this point in the trial, researchers are focused on assessing effectiveness as well as safety.
- Phase III. These trials compare safety and effectiveness of the potential new treatment with standard treatment. The studies are randomized, meaning that some participants get the new treatment and others get the standard treatment. When neither researchers nor participants know which treatment is being used, it’s called a double-blind study.
When evaluating the research, look for studies that:
- have been published in a peer-reviewed journal
- have been replicated by other researchers who don’t have any ties to the drug or treatment that’s being tested
Due to lack of evidence, this therapy isn’t approved by the FDA to treat cancer or any other condition.
Burzynski’s clinic in Texas does have permission to run clinical trials. He has been the subject of several investigations and legal proceedings.
Antineoplaston therapy costs thousands of dollars per month. Health insurers may consider the therapy investigational and medically unnecessary, so it may not be covered under your insurance.
You may come across a variety of websites promoting this therapy, but it’s still an unproven treatment. No peer-reviewed research has been published. No major scientific organizations support the treatment.
Decisions about alternative cancer treatments are yours to make. But if you’re considering antineoplaston therapy for cancer, take time to discuss it with your oncologist.
Giving up on your current cancer treatment could endanger your health. To prevent adverse interactions, make sure your oncologist is aware of all other treatments you’re getting.
Antineoplaston therapy is an investigative cancer treatment. Decades after development, it still lacks FDA approval for general use.
If you’re thinking about antineoplaston therapy, talk to your doctor first. Make sure you understand all your options and the potential pros and cons of this treatment. Proceed with caution.