Penthouse Retrospective

by Gary Null, Leonard Steinman, Terry Leder, Kalev Pehme Originally Published: July, 1980

Cancer Politics – Part Five | 40 Years Ago This Month

In July 1974 New York magazine came out with an article by Alan Anderson, Jr. The article summarized Friedman and Burton’s progress until then, which by 197 4 had finally resulted in the basic four-part theory that Burton developed for treatment of patients at the Bahamas Clinic. One important result of the article was that a vice-president in charge of research and engineering at Champion International in Hamilton, Ohio, Herbert Randall, decided to fund Friedman and Burton in September 197 4 after extended investigation and study of the nature of their therapy. He is presently vice-president of the Immunology Researching Foundation, the funding umbrella of the Freeport center.


“The laboratory tests they are doing have no basis in science,” says Dr. William D. Terry, associate director of the Immunology Program of the National Cancer Institute, a $1 billion-a-year taxpayer-funded arm of the National Institutes of Health. Terry, who has been at the NIH for 18 years, is in fact the cornerstone of opposition to Burton’s work. He has become NCl’s spokesman regarding Burton, and he has made two visits to Burton’s labs, once in Great Neck and later in Freeport.

According to Terry, not only is Burton unscientific; he is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality: “What you are up against here is that there is no way to deal with the Dr. Burtons and their putative treatments, which are put forth by people who are outside of the system and who, in a sense, keep themselves out of the system.”

According to Burton, Terry’s first visit to see his work was at Great Neck after Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio (whose wife had recently died of breast cancer) wrote to the NCI to inquire about Burton’s therapy as described in the New

York magazine article. Burton maintains that the NCI replied and disparaged Friedman and Burton’s work, contending that it had all been done by others before, that they did not publish, that they were very secretive, and that the NCI knew nothing about it. In turn, Metzenbaum asked the NCI how, if Burton and Friedman were so secretive that no one knew what they were doing, the NCI could assert that they had only repeated the work of others.

It was at that point, according to Burton, that Terry made his first appearance in Great Neck on behalf of the NCI. “You never have met a more hostile SOB in your life,” says Burton. “He came in at nine o’clock in the morning, and Terry says, ‘People come to me; I don’t go to anybody.” According to Burton, Terry then offered to walk Burton through the paperwork for a grant of $1.2 million, which would come out of a special NCI fund of $6 million, set aside for unique projects. But nothing happened.

Terry contradicts Burton: “I never offered any such grant.” However, a special American Cancer Society report on the Immunology Researching Centre (IRC) dated October 20, 1977-under a section labeled “Relations with Government Agencies” reads: “In late 1974, the National Cancer Institute. after a site visit to Drs. Burton and Friedman, offered to collaborate with the Immunology Research Foundation by testing and attempting to confirm Dr. Burton’s claims related to an immunological means for controlling cancer, but the offer has not been accepted to date.” This tends to confirm Burton’s version.

The second time Terry came into a Burton lab was in Freeport, three years later. Burton was forced to leave Great Neck, because in addition to other circumstances, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continued to refuse to grant permission to IRC to conduct clinical trials of an immunological approach to the treatment of cancer patients. According to Burton, the FDA would request certain specific information. The information would be provided, and then the FDA would come back and request more. More information would be provided, and the FDA would then request more and more. These endless bureaucratic demands were too much for Burton and Friedman, and finally, in disgust, they asked the FDA to close its file. Searching for a less oppressive medical research environment, Burton discovered the Bahamas and Freeport.

But before IRC could move there, Dr. Charles, then chief medical officer of the Bahamas, wrote to Dr. Terry, asking his views about Burton’s establishing a clinic in Freeport. “I believe that Dr. Charles, on behalf of the Bahamian government, contacted me. I would have to go… and check to see if it was a letter or a telephone call,” remembers Terry. “But I did provide my view.”

According to Burton, the letter Terry sent to Charles said that Burton was a “paranoid psychotic.” According to Terry, “I never in writing told anyone that I thought Or. Burton was a paranoid psychotic.”

Despite Terry’s unfavorable opinions and, according to Terry, the opposition of Dr. Charles, the Bahamian government granted Burton permission to open a clinic in Freeport, with the proviso that proper records would be kept and that patients.would be treated only with a physician present (Burton is a Ph.D., not an M.D.). In the contract, however, there was a stipulation that at the end of the year, an “international review” of Burton’s operations would be conducted.

The reviewers turned out to be Dr. Charles, a member of the Pan-American Health Organization whose field of expertise was not cancer, and the NCl’s Dr. William Terry, once again. Terry does not feel that his impartiality as part of the review panel was hindered by his previously unfavorable comments to Dr. Charles about Burton. “The work is the work,” says Terry. “It’s a matter of reviewing what’s there. It has nothing to do with opinions about people … I am perfectly capable of dispassionately judging what was going on because I am in the business of looking for things that work.”

Of all the things that should be above petty egotism, you might think pushing a cure for debilatating disease might qualify. Yet Cancer Politics thrives, sadly even 40 years after this article.

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