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CNN Larry King Live
Interview with Suzanne Somers
Aired October 23, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Suzanne Somers' medical nightmare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUZANNE SOMERS, CANCER SURVIVOR AND AUTHOR: The oncologist walked in and he said, "You've got cancer."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A terminal diagnosis -- it turned out to be a mistake. But her hospital horror doesn't end there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOMERS: Oh my god, I was in that valley of fear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: How Suzanne says she survived.
And then controversy over cancer treatments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NICHOLAS GONZALEZ, PHYSICIAN: Chemotherapy doesn't deserve a bad name, I wouldn't agree with that at all.
DR. OTIS BRAWLEY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: There is no evidence, Larry, that patients benefit from this.
DR. STANLEY BURZYNSKI, PHYSICIAN AND BIOCHEMIST: Dr. Black is completely wrong.
SOMERS: Why aren't these doctors talking to one another?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What you need to know, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
And always great to have her here.
She's an entertainer, entrepreneur and cancer survivor and "New York Times" best-selling author. Her new book, "Knock Out" -- there you see its cover -- "Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer and How to Prevent Getting it in the First Place."
Some doctors will be here to debate a lot of issues in a little while. But we're going to spend the earlier portion of the program with our special guest, Suzanne Somers.
A terrific book. Thank you for coming.
SOMERS: Thank you.
KING: Suzanne will be 63 years old tomorrow. This is one of the -- they don't believe it in medical science. They do not believe this.
KING: All right. Let's remind -- we're back to hormones again. Let's remind people, in late March of 2001 you came on this show and revealed you were battling breast cancer.
What specific type, by the way?
SOMERS: Just breast cancer.
KING: Just breast cancer?
SOMERS: Just stage one.
SOMERS: Stage one breast cancer.
KING: It had not spread?
SOMERS: It had not spread.
KING: You had a surgical procedure?
KING: What type?
SOMERS: I did probably what you would call modified conventional therapy, which is they did surgery and radiation. I refused chemotherapy which, now that I'm farther away from it, a lot of people in stage one don't take chemotherapy. And I refused the after care drugs, because I just felt that if I could keep myself balanced hormonally with bioidentical hormones and eat as though my life depended on it -- take nutrition so seriously -- that I could manage this cancer for the rest of my life.
KING: Now in November 2008 -- I did not know this, because this is information new to me -- you were rushed to the emergency room -- we're not naming the hospital -- in dire condition.
SOMERS: You know, I -- who knows what triggered this?
And that's what I still don't know. But it was November of this year. I...
KING: Last year?
SOMERS: This year.
KING: The past November?
SOMERS: Yes, the past November. I couldn't breathe. I was in anaphylactic shock. A rash was all over my body -- welts everywhere. My hands blew up, my feet, in my nose and my ears on my scalp, the bottoms of my feet -- everywhere, all over my body this horrible rash. And-- and-- and I just couldn't get my breath.
And I was flying home from a trip and I had been in a restaurant the night before with my group. I had just come off the air. And I went to this restaurant and had a glass of wine and a salad -- a glass of merlot. And other people in my group had a glass of wine and a salad.
When I left that restaurant, the room started spinning, spinning, spinning. And I got so cold that when we got upstairs, I asked Alan if he would lie on top of me. I couldn't get warm. And that's when the rash started breaking out.
So I don't know what that has to do with it, but my drink was behind me. And there's a reason I'm telling you this.
We flew home. On the plane, I couldn't get warm. I couldn't breathe. And I was home for a couple of hours when we arrived and I called the doctor -- in my last book, "Break Through," who lived in that area. And he said, half way through the story, "Stop, you're in danger. Go to the emergency room." And I knew it.
So we drive to the emergency room. I can't breathe. I really ugh like that.
KING: So what happened?
SOMERS: So I -- the -- in the emergency room, they put Decadron in me. They put Benadryl. I hadn't had a pharmaceutical drug in nine years. I'm upset because I'm having drugs.
They put me on oxygen and Arbutrin. It took three rounds of oxygen to get me breathing.
And they said, we want to do a C.T. scan. And I really didn't want to have a C.T. scan because of the radiation, but I thought, you know, there is a time and place for Western medicine and pharmaceutical drugs and even radiation. So I said OK.
I come out of the C.T. scan room. They put me back in the emergency room. They put me back on oxygen. The doctor walks in with a nurse and he closes the door. And he said, "I brought her in with me because I hate what I have to say."
And I said "What?"
"He said, "You have a mass on your lung. It looks like the cancer metastasized into your liver. We don't know what's wrong with your liver. Your liver is -- is so enlarged, it's covering your entire abdomen. You have so many tumors in your chest, we can't count them. They all have masses in them. And you have a blood clot and you have pneumonia. So we're going to check you into the hospital because the blood clot will kill you first."
At that point, my heart started pounding. My blood pressure is usually 110/80. And I said, "I think I need -- I'm afraid I'm going to have a heart attack."
So they -- he said, "I'll give you a sedative".
So I'm upstairs now in a hospital room. And the day before I was in perfect health and I had had my immune system tested, because I do that because of the books I wrote. And the doctor had said, "Wow, you're at 43".
And I said, " I don't have a frame of reference."
He said, "Well, usually, people's immune systems at your age is two or three. Really good is 10. You're at 43.
KING: Oh and it was 43.
SOMERS: Forty-three. So I thought...
KING: And you were 63.
SOMERS: No, no, no, no. My immune system.
KING: Oh, I see.
SOMERS: I'm 63 years old.
KING: OK. I've got it.
SOMERS: My immune system is 43.
KING: All right.
SOMERS: So now I'm upstairs in this hospital room thinking nobody does more for their health than I do. I do it.
KING: Why me?
SOMERS: Right. I -- I take the hormones. I take the vitamins. I -- I -- I think good thoughts. I sleep. I manage my stress. I do it. So, now I've got I.V. Heparin for a blood clot, I.V. Lebaquin for pneumonia. I've got an I.V. For the sedative and I'm on oxygen and the oncologist walks in.
And he says, "You've got cancer. It's everywhere. I've never seen so much cancer."
And I just stared at him. And my husband stared at him.
And he said, "What we can do is start you on full body chemotherapy."
And I said, "Just so you know where I'm coming from, that's just not a choice that I would make. I -- I'd rather die" -- are my exact words.
So he said, "Well, then I think you should think about getting your things in order."
So a few hours later, the lung cancer doctor comes in. And he says, "I just looked at your C.T. scan. You have lung cancer that's metastasized."
And then the next morning the surgeon comes in. And he said, "I looked at your C.T. scan and you have lung cancer that's metastasized throughout your body."
The radiologist in the E.R. confirmed that I had full body cancer. The E.R. doc confirmed and the -- the internist.
KING: I guess this is why we're not naming the hospital.
KING: You didn't sue the hospital.
SOMERS: I'm not going to sue. It just could happen to anyone.
KING: But have you revealed this before?
SOMERS: No, I've never told this story. Nobody knows -- most of my friends don't know this.
KING: OK. Go ahead.
SOMERS: So it was a shock and awe body blow, because, you know, my son, who I gave birth to as a teenager, said -- I started to cry. And he's a man and he cried. And he said -- I'm going to cry. He said, "I can't imagine a world without you, ma."
And for the first time, I didn't have the words to say to him, oh, it's all going to be OK.
And about day three, I looked at my husband and I said, "Look, if I have lung cancer that has metastasized throughout my body, you know and I know I have maybe two months, maybe two weeks. So we have to make some plans. And usually Alan would be going hah, only he said, Yes."
KING: At that moment -- we'll take a break and come right back with more of this story.
Still to come, the major bulk of the show tonight, we'll deal her book and a dispute among doctors over this whole concept. But we'll finish off this part of the story after this.
KING: OK, we're back with Suzanne Somers.
You're in the hospital. You've had the C.T. scan. They've all told you you have cancer?
KING: And, obviously, you didn't have cancer. You're here. You're sitting. You look great.
SOMERS: Well, I...
KING: How did know -- find out you didn't have cancer?
SOMERS: On this -- this was six doctors over six days confirming that I should get my things in order. And...
KING: You're saying they were all wrong?
SOMERS: They were all wrong. They were all wrong.
KING: But what led them down that...
SOMERS: That's why I wrote...
KING: ...wrong road?
SOMERS: That's why I wrote this book. Well, I just have to tell you one thing that happened in the hospital, because I've had an experience that very few people ever experience. I -- I saw my death. I was in that valley of fear. And there was one night -- my husband started to die with me. And my husband, who is usually a bulldog, just -- it was like if I was going to die, he was going to die, too. And he got into that little bed with me and just held me for all those days.
And one night -- I don't know if it was the middle of the night -- I was holding him and my children were asleep at the foot of my bed and I heard a voice. I heard a voice. It was so loud that I looked around the room to see did anyone else hear this voice.
KING: What did it say?
SOMERS: It's not who you are, it's not what you have, it's not what you do, it's only about who you love and who loves you. And I had this moment of the most unbelievable gratitude, that I wanted more life more than anything I could think of. But I want -- I thought I have more love than most people have.
KING: Two things.
How did it...
KING: What -- what is the significance of the glass being behind you?
KING: You said you'll tell me that.
SOMERS: The -- they decided to do surgery. I don't know why, because I've had full body counts, so why did I decide?
But I'm -- my blood pressure is 191.
So they take me into surgery. And I'm being wheeled in. And I'm think -- I hear -- I remember the sound of the wheels on the linoleum floor. And I'm thinking I'm about to find out if I'm going to live or die, most likely die. It's been confirmed by six doctors.
They cut open my throat. They go in and they take a piece of my lung. They took a piece of one of the so-called tumors. And I said to the doctor -- I was -- right before I was going out, I said: "If you're going to do this, you might as well give me Demerol."
And then I was out, wherever you go when you're out.
SOMERS: And I woke up in intensive care to hear wow, you don't have any cancer anywhere. So you would think that I would be happy. But myself had accepted that I was going to die. And I had this sadness I couldn't get rid of. And just as I'm thinking wow, I'm not going to die, the infectious doctors walk in -- four of them in white coats. And they said now that we've ruled out cancer, we think you have a serious infectious disease.
I said, "Like what?"
They said, we think you have tuberculosis or leprosy or meningitis, which brings with it dementia. So you are now a threat to the community and my job -- this doctor infectious guy says -- is to protect the community, so I'm putting you in an isolation room.
And so now I'm covered in plastic. I'm put upstairs in this room that's very huge, with this big motor that's supposedly going to take my germs out into cyberspace. And that's when I lost it. And I just sobbed.
And I e-mailed one of the doctors in my last book, Dr. Wright. And he said, "I have your blood work from a month ago. It's stellar. You're -- these diseases would have presented themselves before this. Get out of there."
So I say to the doctor in infectious, "I want to get out of here."
And she said, "Oh, I can't. You're -- you're a threat to the community. We have to wait until your cultures come back."
And I said, "How long is that?"
She said, "Well, anywhere from two to four weeks."
And that's when I became like Shirley MacLaine in "Terms of Endearment."
The fight came back in me, because they had cold cocked me. The fight came back...
KING: Did you just walk...
SOMERS: I started to...
KING: In the interests of time here...
SOMERS: I started to try to pull out my I.V. I said, "I'm going home."
KING: How did you get out?
SOMERS: I said, "I'm going home." I got out by agreeing to be quarantined to my property for six weeks -- no bank, no school, no public place and by agreeing to take the medicines for all those diseases which -- oh, by the way, the leprosy medicine will make you sweat blood. I went home. I threw out $5,000 worth of medicines, because I wasn't going to take this stuff. I saw it, I was like...
KING: And what was the final result?
SOMERS: I had none of those diseases. I was either poisoned or I was a substance...
KING: The merlot?
SOMERS: Salir, the merlot, yes.
KING: The merlot that was behind you?
SOMERS: The merlot that was behind me.
KING: Do they think that was the cause?
SOMERS: Nobody -- nobody knows, because at the...
KING: Could it have been sour?
SOMERS: At the time -- at the time, I kept saying, couldn't this be a poisoning?
Couldn't this be a severe allergic attack?
No, it doesn't look like that on the C.T. scan.
Something blew out my immune system. My immune system, that had been at 43, like that, in five minutes, my immune system was wiped out. And they think what happened was a dormant fungus that all of us in Southern California could have was dislodged.
KING: But they all read it wrong.
KING: The oncologists read it wrong and the infectious doctors?
SOMERS: Everybody. The point of this book is, as a -- as a patient, you need information. It's your power.
KING: All right. The book...
SOMERS: If I had taken this full body chemo, where would I be?
I'd be dead.
KING: The book is "Knock Out: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer."
And we'll get to that book in a little while.
We're going to have doctors here.
Suzanne, by the way, has taken some heat for her comments about Patrick Swayze and his treatment for cancer.
Did she really say they took a beautiful man and put poison in his body?
She'll explain it in 60 seconds.
KING: We're back.
The book is "Knocked Out."
The guest is Suzanne Somers.
We'll meet some doctors in a couple of moments who are going to debate some of what we heard.
You said that -- what did you say about Patrick Swayze and where did you say it?
SOMERS: At a -- at Tom Ford's private party. I -- I shouldn't have said it. But now that you know this story, I was just so raw from my chemotherapy experience, so raw from watching Farrah Fawcett die. I dedicated this book to the people who died in the short time that I've been writing this book -- of cancer. There're 27 names there. And I added two more yesterday, Larry Gelbart and Nancy Daly, who both of whom of you know...
SOMERS: It's an epidemic. And so I think -- I should not have -- I wrote a letter of apology to his family. I should not have said it.
KING: How did it get out?
SOMERS: A reporter who didn't identify himself as a reporter.
KING: Why would you -- I know you're prone to do this sometimes, Suzanne.
KING: Go a little -- when you didn't know the case, you didn't see his...
SOMERS: Wrong. I was wrong. I shouldn't have said it. I didn't mean to -- I -- as a public person, I shouldn't have said it. I -- I just -- you have to understand, we're going to have Dr. Gonzalez on and Dr. Burzynski on and other doctors I've interviewed in this book. Both of these doctors have said to me what -- in the writing of this book, we all know, in the oncology world, absolutely, that chemotherapy does nothing whatsoever for pancreatic cancer.
So I have been watching Patrick...
KING: But they did major surgery on Patrick.
SOMERS: I don't know. I don't know anything about that.
KING: I'm pretty sure they did.
SOMERS: I don't know anything about his case. That's why I should not have mentioned it.
But when I'm hearing about somebody with pancreatic cancer, having been sitting there for 16 hours a day writing this book since February -- I wrote this book in five-and-a-half months.
Why are they giving this if it's not working for these cancers?
KING: Well, it must work for some people. I mean, there are people who've had chemo...
SOMERS: When the doctors...when the doctors come out...
KING: When they come out, we'll ask them.
SOMERS: ...ask them, because I did ask, why would they give it?
They said it's palliative, meaning it makes the family feel good. It makes the patient feel like something is being done, but it -- it extends life sometimes by a month, sometimes a little longer; poor quality of life. And I...
KING: Yours -- Are we saying -- and we'll ask the doctors for sure -- because you're a layman and I'm a layman.
SOMERS: I'm a layman.
KING: Are we saying that no one ever took chemotherapy and got better with that?
SOMERS: No. No. No. No, I'm not saying that.
KING: You're not saying that. You can't say that.
SOMERS: Well, I was just saying that about pancreatic -- there are three kinds of cancer that absolutely respond. If I had testicular cancer, which is unlikely; if I had a child with leukemia; if I had a lymphoma or non-Hodgkin's, I would consider...
SOMERS: ...chemotherapy because there has been success there. But...
KING: Let me get a break and come back.
We hope we've cleared up the Patrick Swayze thing, for which you've already apologized.
The doctors are here. They're going to take on Suzanne's unconventional health advice and some will stand up for her.
See what you should follow next.
KING: OK. Suzanne Somers remains.
Her book is "Knock Out."
We're joined by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, a physician and biochemist. He is profiled in Suzanne's new book.
Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez. His treatment of cancer centers on an aggressive nutritional program. He is also profiled in Suzanne's new book.
In Atlanta, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer, the American Cancer Society. He's a practicing oncologist, professor of hematology/oncology medicine and epidemiology at Emory.
And here in Los Angeles, Keith Black. Dr. Black is a neurosurgeon, scientist, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and director of the Maxine Duntz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars- Sinai. Let's start with Dr. Brawley.
What did you make of what Suzanne just said about cancer, chemotherapy, pancreatic cancer and the like?
BRAWLEY: Well, first off, I'm sorry for what she's gone through, although some of the things that she said didn't quite make sense to me. I don't want to get into her medical care.
I do want to tell you what I've done for my entire career is study disparities in health -- why do blacks have a higher death rate from cancer than whites?
Why do the uninsured have a higher death rate than the insured?
And the answer is, they don't get as much conventional medicine. A higher proportion of blacks, a higher proportion of the uninsured, a higher proportion of poor whites get lousy medical care. They don't get the conventional care that she argues against.
I think it's quite ironic she would argue against the thing that I think that everybody needs to be getting.
KING: All right. Dr. Gonzalez...
SOMERS: I didn't get any ordinary care.
KING: All right, hold -- hold it, Suzanne.
Dr. Gonzalez, are you saying chemotherapy -- do you agree with Suzanne?
GONZALEZ: I think there are cancers, unquestionably, for which chemotherapy works. And Suzanne named several of them. Hodgkin's disease -- they can cure 80 percent early stage with chemotherapy; testicular cancer, 80 percent, at least; certain lymphomas. Childhood leukemia can be cured with chemotherapy. But for the mass -- for the mass of cancers, the major killers, such as metastatic lung, metastatic breast, metastatic colon, metastatic pancreatic cancer, unfortunately chemotherapy really doesn't -- it's not curative. It may prolong life, but it isn't really that beneficial. So we need to look at new options.
KING: Dr. Black?
DR. KEITH BLACK, NEUROSURGEON & SCIENTIST, CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF NEUROSURGERY, CEDARS-SINAI: Well, I -- I think that it's important for cancer patients to realize that we are making progress in the treatment against cancer. There is more promise. There is more hope. And we're trying new, promising treatments that range from cancer vaccines that work with the body's immune system to cancer stem cells.
It's important for all the patients to have information in a very scientific way and there ... KING: But when Suzanne says...
BLACK: ... And there -- it's -- and there are just so many chemotherapeutic agents now that are approved by the FDA, that we know prolong life, for a whole variety of cancers, I think we have to be very careful of the information we give to our patients.
KING: All right. Are you saying Suzanne's plea for alternatives is off-base or bad for people?
BLACK: Not at all, Larry. I -- I work very closely with doctors that practice complementary medicine. We integrate diet into our treatments. But what patients need to realize is that the conventional treatments that are approved provide clear benefit to those patients.
KING: Will you disagree with that, Dr. Burzynski?
BURZYNSKI: Well, I agree with Suzanne Somers. Of course, chemotherapy can cure some cancers, but it cannot cure most of the most common cancers ...
KING: You disagree with what Dr. Black just said?
BURZYNSKI: Yes, well ...
KING: You do disagree?
BURZYNSKI: I disagree to certain point. Chemotherapy can work for some cancers, but cannot work for the majority of cancers. This year alone, two-and-half million people are going to die worldwide just with three cancers -- lung, colon and liver cancer.
So what does the chemotherapy cure for these people?
It doesn't not exist.
KING: Dr. Brawley, are you saying chemotherapy will cure or help diseases that Dr. Burzynski just mentioned?
BRAWLEY: There are a few people who have metastatic disease who actually have very long-term survival. I won't use the word "cure," but there are instances where people have stage four ovarian cancer or even stage four lung cancer, whose quality of life, pain and other factors are all improved by the fact that they get some chemotherapy.
Now, I'm the first to admit that there are some people who get chemotherapy who ought not -- people who are getting it as a third or fourth line therapy for metastatic disease. Frequently, those people are getting treated because the patient wants treatment, because they don't want to die and the doctor wants to give them treatment because the doctor doesn't want to tell them that they are dying. And we need to actually start looking in -- in the United States -- into how we look at hospice and other things.
But to say that people who have metastatic disease should not get chemotherapy, blanket and outright, that's just harmful. And it's actually going to hurt some people by saying that.
KING: All right. We'll have the doctors answers and Suzanne reply.
We'll talk about cancer and diet too, right after this.
KING: We're back with the doctors and Suzanne.
So far, you can make a comment, Suzanne.
Remember again, you and I are laymen.
SOMERS: I know ...
KING: The book is "Knock Out."
SOMERS: I know. But the reason I wrote this book is not -- it's not of my concern what a patient chooses. That is up to the patient. But if you have cancer -- and it's very likely a lot of people watching will ...
KING: I'm sure.
SOMERS: ... Because next year, 2010, it will overtake heart as the biggest killer in this country.
Don't you want to know that there's another way?
And I spoke to Dr. Gonzalez's patients -- I asked him two days ago -- and Dr. Burzynski's patients -- I asked Dr. Gonzalez yesterday, "Can you give me 10 patients with long-term success of pancreatic cancer, who are doing your nutritional approach?" Within a half hour, he's back to me with their names and phone numbers. I have trained with Dr. Burzynski -- I interviewed a little girl at his clinic --
KING: I got it, I got it --
SOMERS: -- the incredible -- and -- and these men have been persecuted --
KING: Dr. Black, are you discounting what she's saying? Are you discounting nutritional and other concepts?
BLACK: Not at all, Larry. We -- we know that nutritional support and -- and -- and other -- sort of -- approaches are helpful and they benefit patients in conjunction with traditional medical approaches. And that's why we work very -- very closely, side by side with complimentary medicine to integrate their approaches with our patients.
But again, I think it -- it has to be made very clear because patients with cancer suffer enough. None of us at this table have had cancer, but I treat cancer patients all the time and it's important that they have very clear information. There are a whole variety of cancers, including brain tumors -- particularly pediatric brain tumors -- and even adult brain tumors -- that chemotherapy can benefit from.
KING: I'm sorry, but Dr. Gonzalez, does -- does -- does chemotherapy deserve a bad name?
GONZALEZ: Chemotherapy doesn't deserve a bad name, I wouldn't agree with that at all. I think this is a therapy that, in certain cancers, is very beneficial. I agree with Dr. Brawley that it can extend life in a number of cancers, although it's ultimately not curative, so I don't think it should be discounted. I think -- I think -- patients should have the option to choose whatever treatment they want. For example, you have metastatic --
KING: And you don't think conventional medicine gives them that option?
GONZALEZ: I think, in general, the alternative options have been discounted as scientifically invalid.
KING: Dr. Brawley, do you support Suzanne's concept that diet has a great deal to do with helping in this -- in this disease?
BRAWLEY: Well, I think diet does have a role in the disease, but I think that diet and other alternative things, in combination with standard treatment, where the conventional doctor is aware of what the patient is taking, is incredibly important.
You know, I'm reminded of the -- with DDI, the AIDS drug. People who took high doses of vitamin C along with the DDI basically caused the DDI to be totally useless in terms of its immune support. So it's important that if a patient is getting chemotherapy, or getting conventional treatment, and they choose some of these alternative therapies, they talk to their conventional doctor about it.
It's wonderful when a conventional doctor and the alternative therapist are actually communicating. And if the alternative therapy is making the patient feel better, that's wonderful.
KING: You're not -- are you against conventional medicines?
SOMERS: No, not at all, but -- you know -- we're -- we're putting Dr. Gonzalez and Burzynski into this alternative template --
KING: That's where you put them, they're in your book in your --
SOMERS: Dr. Burzynski, with his anti-neoplastins, is in phase two clinical trials, he's now starting phase three clinical trials. I mean, the work that these two men are doing is extraordinary and I don't think it should be discounted. If -- if chemotherapy is the answer, then why do a half million people die of cancer every year?
So, I -- I'm sorry, the "New York Times" said "the war on cancer is a dismal failure." We're -- on those three kinds of cancer that I mentioned and a few others that -- and -- and ask these doctors about it, I'm not a doctor. KING: I want to ask him, what -- what do you mean by this plastin study, what is that?
BURZYNSKI: Anti-neoplastins, peptides, which I discovered, which can stimulate genes which fight cancer, and which can decrease the activity of the genes which cause cancer. These are molecular switches --
KING: You publish that?
BURZYNSKI: Yes, we publish -- I publish about 300 articles --
KING: Do you discount that?
BURZYNSKI: -- I presented numerous --
KING: Well, that seems revolutionary. Do you discount that?
BLACK: Well, I -- I -- I looked at the chapter that Suzanne wrote in her book about Dr. Burzynski and I've -- I've known of what he's been doing. And I think -- you know -- the work that he's doing, there's no scientific evidence that it provides any benefit for cancer patients.
KING: You're discounting all the work?
SOMERS: Oh my gosh.
BLACK: Yes. He's treated over 8,000 patients with this treatment over 30 years. The papers that he has published have been too few papers -- too few patients in those articles to come to any scientific conclusion. And in -- in -- in studies that have been reviewed by other doctors of his work, when he selected the patients, they found no evidence of any response of cancer patients to -- to his--
SOMERS: Then why is he in Phase Two clinical trials?
Why is he starting Phase three?
BLACK: Well --
SOMERS: I mean, to discount what Dr. Burzynski did, I think, is a great disservice to people listening also.
BLACK: Well, I mean, you know, the other thing, Larry, is that, you know, here are some abstracts that he wrote. And one of the patients that he describes as having a complete response to his treatment, it wasn't a response because the patient had had the tumor removed with surgery. He also states that there was no complications or very little complications in his treatment.
And I've actually had one patient that went to him and had the treatment and almost died -- went in a coma from the treatment.
KING: Now, we've got to follow up on this. We've got another concept coming.
Remember that ill boy who fled with his mother to avoid court- ordered chemotherapy?
They're here next.
Don't go away.
KING: By the way, I'll pick up on this debate about Dr. Burzynski in just a couple of moments.
But they've been standing by in cold weather. We want to go right to them now.
With us now is Danny Hauser. Danny was diagnosed a Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January. After a single session of chemo, the family stopped Danny's treatment, citing problematic side effects and religious objections.
Danny and his mother subsequently fled Minnesota, you'll remember, to avoid further court-ordered chemo to seek alternative treatments. Under threat of arrest, they returned.
Danny resumed chemo in June. His family is also pursuing additional therapies.
Danny, how are you?
KING: How do you feel?
DANNY: I feel great.
KING: Colleen, is he getting chemotherapy?
COLLEEN: Right now he's -- he's done with his chemo treatments.
KING: Have they worked?
COLLEEN: I would -- I have to give credit to both. Even, he's done so remarkable well that with all the alternatives, he's -- he's in remission now in that.
KING: Are you saying you're crediting both chemo and alternatives? COLLEEN: Yes, I am.
KING: You're the father, Anthony.
How do you feel?
ANTHONY: Well, I feel that definitely -- definitely the combination between the two has done a great job, here. And I believe without the alternative therapies, that he would have never done as well as he did.
KING: So, you're glad he came back? You're glad he took the chemo, but you're also glad he did the alternatives? Is that what you're saying? I don't want to put words in your mouth, is that what you're saying?
ANTHONY: That is correct.
KING: What are the doctors saying, Colleen?
COLLEEN: They're saying he made a remarkable recovery. They really are astounded at how fast and how well he went through this therapy.
KING: And you credit both -- Danny, you say you feel fine, right?
KING: That's good news for everybody. The best to all of you. I'm sorry you are out there in the cold. We appreciate you.
All right. They did both. And that might be the answer to this whole show. They did both.
SOMERS: This book has integrative in it. What he did is integrative and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma does respond to chemotherapy.
KING: But I want to give a chance to Doctor Burzynski to respond to Doctor Black.
BURZYNKSI: Well, first of all, I don't know why Doctor Black is not telling the truth. We conducted 12 Phase 2 clinical trials under strict FDA supervision. In every one of these trials, we have objective response to treatment. We proved the treatment works, that even can cure incurable brain tumors. The patients can live not only five years tumor free, but another 10 years tumor free, from the types of tumors where chemotherapy can do absolutely nothing.
This is well documented. This was reviewed by the top specialists in the United States. But it was never reviewed by Doctor Black. He didn't review even a single case done by us. Why?
KING: Why? Why are you not open to --
BURZYNSKI: Even the patients whom Doctor Black advised, do not come to us, 11 years ago, for incurable brain tumors. Scanned tumors gone in two months, it is now 11 years later, in perfect health, living here in L.A. And Doctor Black will tell you, you'll be wasting time and money. Why are you doing this, Doctor Black?
KING: Why are you not, as a good doctor, why are you not open to this?
BLACK: Actually, I'm open to anything that would benefit my patients.
BLACK: But the patient I did send to Doctor Burzynski almost died, went into a coma from his treatment. And it's not a lie --
KING: No, but a bad thing could happen in any instance, right?
BLACK: You know the fact of the matter is that in the one study --
BRAWLEY: Can I get in --
KING: No, hold on, Doctor Brawley.
BLACK: In the one study that he did on brain tumors, it was reviewed by the NCI. They were able to look at six patients that were on his treatment. And none of the six patients had any response to therapy.
KING: Hold on. Hold it right there.
BURZYNKSI: Can I start? It is pitiful that you to pick our trials trial with only six patients. And none of these patients received the ribosome medicine. They received 50 times lower dose of the medicine. I needed to force NCI to stop it to protect patients.
KING: Let me get --
BURZYNSKI: I don't know of clinical trials that have six? Where is that?
KING: Doctor Gonzalez, you have a comment?
GONZALEZ: I've reviewed a number of Doctor Burzynski's cases. While I'm not a neurosurgeon, nor an expert in brain cancer, certainly the regressions have been impressive. I think we all need to be open to what Doctor Burzynski is doing, in a major way.
KING: You think Doctor Black is not open?
GONZALEZ: I wouldn't -- I don't know. I don't know the gentleman. I just met him today. KING: OK.
GONZALEZ: But I would suggest we all be open to what Doctor Burzynski has to say.
KING: Doctor Brawley, quickly, I have to go to break, but do you want to comment on what we just heard?
BRAWLEY: Yes, cancer is a disease where a lot of people have desperation. And when you're desperate they're actually open to accept a number of things from people offering them hope. We have to be very careful about people who are offering hope. We have to make sure it's verifiable. We have to make sure that it's gone, not just through the scientific process, but to peer review, and that findings are reproducible.
I would be interested in Doctor Burzynski telling me if any other doctors have been able to reproduce his findings using his drugs.
KING: All right. We'll ask him that when we come back. We'll be back in 60 seconds with more on cancer and controversy.
KING: Doctor Burzynski, you want to comment about other doctors.
BURZYNKSI: I would like to comment. Our clinical trials have involvement of 1,500 investigators approved by FDA. Every patient was seen by us, but also by investigators by another clinic. Recently, trials were published by the Japanese and revealed that the people who have advanced colon cancer, they can -- twice as many people survived, over five years, compared to those who have only chemotherapy.
KING: Can you, without being too doctorish, tell me what you're treating them with?
BURZYNSKI: We are treating these patients with anti-plastins, which are peptides, discovered by me, which work as genetic switches. They turn off the genes which cause cancer. They turn on the genes that fight cancer.
KING: Now, you know some of these patients?
SOMERS: I've interviewed many, many of both of their patients. We should do a show bringing on these patients. It will make a believer out of you. These are people -- not -- Doctor Gonzalez has a nutritional program that is working. This one woman said to me, you should see me. I am beautiful. I'm 72 years old, I had stage 4 breast cancer. I was considered terminal. I've been alive now for 18 years. And it was one after another.
I just -- all I'm trying to bring, in the two times I've been diagnosed, all I was offer was standard of care, radiation chemotherapy, harsh after care drugs, surgery. No one ever said, or if you don't want that you could try X. This book will give you X.
KING: I've got it. The book is called "Knock Out".
SOMERS: And its integrative, and if you are taking chemotherapy there is a chapter in there that will tell you how to enhance your chemotherapy. It is for everybody.
KING: Doctor Brawley, you're not saying you discount alternatives, are you?
BRAWLEY: Absolutely not. We work very closely with alternative medicines. You know, look, Larry, if you go to the site, ClinicalTrials.gov., there are about 60 trials listed on anti- neoplastines that Doctor Burzynski ran. Just about all of them show that there are no results available for their patients.
The other thing is, really, these patients are desperate. It's an ethical issue. Most doctors believe that it is not ethical to charge patients for experimental treatments where there is no evidence of benefit.
SOMERS: Oh, please, it costs a half a million dollars to die of chemotherapy.
BLACK: Right, but those are with proven therapies. That the FDA approved.
SOMERS: Proven therapies?
BLACK: They are experimental treatments we don't charge patients at Cedar Sinai, that are --
KING: You're saying he charges patients.
BLACK: Sixty thousand dollars for a treatment, for a treatment that's not proven.
KING: But if they get better, why not?
BRAWLEY: Because there is no evidence, Larry, that patients benefit from this. And they're desperate. So, if you look at, you know, 8,000 patients treated with this, it is about $400 million for a treatment that he's collected, or this institute, that's not proven. And actually, if you follow --
SOMERS: Actually, the FDA tried to put Doctor Burzynski in jail for 300 years, he fought the government and won!
SOMERS: He fought the government and won!
KING: We're not doctors.
SOMERS: I know.
KING: We're going to get a break. Suzanne's book is "Knock Out." We'll be right back.
KING: Doctor Gonzalez wanted to comment.
GONZALEZ: Yes, I think it's a mistake to assume that in the conventional medical world all that is used are therapies that have been proven to be beneficial and in the alternate world it is the opposite. There are conventional therapies that are extremely expensive that have been used without any evidence of benefit. An example is bone marrow transplant with treatment of women with metestatical (ph) poor prognosis breast cancer.
It is estimated 40,000 women underwent that procedure; 10 to 30 percent died during the procedure. It costs up to 450,000 dollars. Oncologists did make money off of that. Hospitals made and enormous amount of money out of that. And when the NCI finally supported clinical trials after it was in common use around the country by practicing oncologists, they found out it didn't do anything. So there's an example of a standard therapy that became insurance reimbursed and had no benefit and no evidence.
KING: Dr. Brawley, how about the argument offered by those in the alternative field that entrenched medicine is just unwilling to open its eyes? Like it's married to chemotherapy, it makes money from chemotherapy, it's not going to change.
BRAWLEY: Well, my patients just in the last week have taken an extract of a tree bark called Aspirin. The other extract of a tree bark called Taxil. So I don't think necessarily we're open to alternatives -- that we're close-minded to alternative medicine. I think we're for a scientific method and for that scientific method to be respected. I can tell you what five and 10-year results are from many of the chemotherapy drugs that we standardly give.
But some of these drugs that are advocated today or some of these treatments that are advocated today, we just can't do that. If a treatment that we use turns out to be bad, as bone marrow transplant for breast cancer was, the conventional wisdom figured that out and stopped doing it. I don't see that policing going on in some of these complementary and alternative medicine practices.
KING: Dr. Gonzalez, when something doesn't work, do you stop it?
GONZALEZ: Well, certainly if it doesn't work, we stop it, FDA forces us to stop a treatment when it doesn't work. We work according to strict protocols. And first of all, we do not charge for medicine with anti-neoplastin. Dr. Black is completely wrong. The patient receives anti-neoplastin medicines free of charge. More than that, you can find the results of our clinical trials published in a beautiful journal which is "Neuro Oncology." If you would like to look at, read "Neuro Oncology" or go to neuroscientists.
KING: Why are you open to look into this?
BLACK: I have, Larry, and actually I read his articles. You know, what Dr. Burzynski is saying is what his institute has done. They get around the issue of charging for the medication, but charging for catheters and other things associated with the treatment. But if you actually look at what Andrew Weil, who is a leading authority on alternative medicine says about anti-neoplastins, he says there is absolutely no evidence that it works. And until there is evidence, patients should avoid this treatment.
SOMERS: You have to understand, the cancer business is a $200 billion a year business. If these two gentlemen are right, that means that business is in jeopardy. And that's what we lay people need to understand. That's why I'm just saying, choose whatever you want.
KING: Because it's a 200 billion dollar business doesn't make it wrong.
SOMERS: Doesn't make it wrong, but their results are so dismal.
KING: Dr. Brawley, how do you respond? You're with the American Cancer Society. It is a big money business, isn't it?
BRAWLEY: People make a living off of it, Larry. However, there is a scientific process. People in medicine really want to help cure people and really want to help treat people. There's a scientific process that involves peer review. It involves open discussion of data, letting other people look at your data. Dr. Burzynski, had you allowed other people to truly audit all of your data or just selected parts of your data. And we really need to respect the scientific process.
KING: All right, let me get a break. We have one more segment left. I promise you we'll do more shows on this. And Suzanne Somers' book is just out, it's "Knockout," interviews with doctors who are curing cancer and how to prevent getting it in the first place. The foreword is by Dr. Julian Whitaker. Back with our remaining moments after this.
KING: We're back. You're told you have cancer. We have a limited time here, so let's go around the horn. Dr. Gonzalez, you have cancer. Depending on what the cancer is, what is phase two like to phase three?
GONZALEZ: Phase two is where they're actually to see whether new therapy has efficacy or not. Phase one is them trying to estimate what the proper dose would be. In phase two, they're actually trying to see whether there's any effect.
KING: Phase three?
GONZALEZ: Phase three is when you do a controlled study. Phase one and phase two, though you can have a control group/ Usually they don't have a control group. In phase three, you have two groups, one receiving the best of the old therapy and one receiving the new.
KING: Phase four is good-bye? GONZALEZ: Phase four would be a more enlarged stage three -- after the therapy has been used.
KING: You're diagnosed with cancer by an oncologist who says certain things. Should you always seek a second opinion?
KING: Do you agree with that, Dr. Brawley?
BRAWLEY: I do. I think the second opinion and a good conversation with both doctors is imperative.
KING: Dr. Burzynski, do you agree?
BURZYNSKI: Definitely. The second opinion is very important. People should understand the disease and should make the right choice.
KING: Dr. Black, if both opinions are the same, should you seek a third?
BLACK: I think it depends on whether or not you feel comfortable with where you are. I think it's important for patients to educate themselves. I think it's important for patients to educate themselves. I think it's important for them to be aware of clinical trials that may be available for them. I also think it's important to be treated in cancer centers that have a lot of expertise and a comprehensive team.
KING: Like Sloan-Kettering?
BLACK: Right, that can manage their particular disease.
KING: How, Dr. Brawley, was Suzanne so mis-diagnosed?
BRAWLEY: I have no idea. I can only tell you that some of the wording that she used, because she's a layman, were words that I quite honestly have never heard in medicine before. I don't know what happened in her case. I think it's inappropriate for me to comment beyond that, having not seen any of the X-Rays and the lab studies.
KING: What was the word she used that wouldn't have been said in a medical room?
BRAWLEY: I have no idea what her immune status being 43 means. I have never heard of that.
KING: Suzanne? I have not heard of that.
SOMERS: That just meant that my immune system was very high. That's why I was so surprised, when you do a blood test for natural killer cells. When I look at Dr. Brawley, when I look at Dr. Black, what I hope is that these -- and I read everything about them before we came today. These esteemed doctors, and Dr. Black here, believe in building up the immune system. He's already thinking in alternatives. Why aren't these doctors talking to one another? It's like Dr. Gonzalez and Burzynski are pariahs here. They are doing something incredible. Dr. Burzynski has found the peptide in the liver that is responsible for cell multiplication. You stop that, you stop the cancer. Why don't they want to know about it?
KING: Why don't we all openly get together more, Dr. Black, convention and non-conventional.
BLACK: Larry, we do. We have meetings, we collaborate all the time and I think again, it's important for other -- our research scientists to be able to replicate one's results. It's important not just for one scientists or one institution to be doing studies, but for others to make sure that they can also repeat the results that you're finding. And I think that's what you're hearing is the scientific process to really get to the answer so that we really have the truth that we can tell our patients.
KING: All right, we've got to do another show on this. We'll invite all of these doctors back. We'll devote much more time to it. There's nothing more important than your health. Or as my old friend Henry Lewin (ph) used to say, money is not the only thing, health is three percent. As always, you should consult your own doctors before making any medical discussions. Suzanne's book is "Knockout."
"AC 360" starts right now.