... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

460: The Great Stanisław Coincidence

November 2011 is, for me, the month of the great Stanisław coincidence. First on Tuesday I started reading The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem. A legendary Polish science-fiction writer who I have only just discovered under recommendation from this guy. The very next morning I turned on the laptop at 7am, fired up the browser and was taken to my homepage, the endlessly useful google.co.uk (you may have heard of it). I like having google as my homepage because I enjoy the occasional surprise of a google doodle; yesterday was the most incredible day for google doodle spotting. It was an interactive game/animation depicting scenes from The Cyberiad (and possibly other stories by Stanisław Lem; I'll find out the more I read). I honestly thought I was dreaming; the coincidence was too high and it set me off for the day convinced all was not quite normal with the world.

Stanisław Lem, as an author, was new to me, and the very name Stanisław (pronounced Stanis-wav) is entirely new to me. Might make a good name for my wee future baby boy? The great Stanisław coincidence continued today. At work I read the free papers from cover to cover three or four times. Monday to Wednesday this is just The Metro, but on Thursday and Friday The Manchester Evening News is free too. The letters page in today's MEN featured a letter, from a Manchester resident called Stanisław, informing a previous correspondent about the time, location and price of a local tea dance. Then, upon coming home I began reading online an interesting series of tweets by Ben Goldacre (Bad Science), and articles from the wonderful Quackometer blog:

The Burzynski Clinic Threatens My Family.
The False Hope of the Burzynski Clinic.

These posts were inspired by something called the Burzynski Clinic (that much is obvious thus far). Burzynski exhibits many typical traits of your typical quack, and in order to avoid the kind of hassle that quacks give their critics (read the above link about threats) I'm going to stick to describing him using quotes from wikipedia:

Since December 1976, Burzynski has administered peptides and their metabolites, which he calls antineoplastons, as treatments with alleged anti-cancer activity.
Another Stanisław
There is no convincing evidence from randomized controlled trials in the scientific literature that antineoplastons are useful treatments of cancer and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these products for the treatment of any disease.[1] The American Cancer Society has stated that there is no evidence that antineoplastons have any beneficial effects in cancer and recommended that people do not buy these products.[2] A 2004 medical review described antioneoplaston treatment as a "disproven therapy".[3] Oncologists have described Burzynski's research on antineoplastons as "flawed" and "scientific nonsense",[4] and independent scientists have been unable to reproduce the positive results reported in Burzynski's studies.[5]
In other words there seems to be an consensus amongst experts that his methodology is flawed and his results are ineffective. At best this means he gives false hope to dying people as he takes their money while contributing to the public mis-understanding of science, at worse he, well I won't say. To make matters worse The Observer have just done an unquestioning puff-piece (The worst year of my life) about the sad case of a four-year old cancer patient and the hopeful and desperate parents attempts to raise £200,000 to pay Burzynski. It's a terribly sad story, and one that loads of celebrities have helped to raise money for. That money should go to Cancer Research, who do real work in the fight against cancer, not a quack running a private alternative clinic. Click here and here for information on Burzynski from Cancer Research.

Burzynski's first name is... you guessed it: Stanisław! And that brings us to the end of the great Stanisław coincidence of November 2011. And remember readers, fight cancer and quacks, not cancer with quacks.