Houston, TX – Orthodox Jewish Mom Turns To White House Petition Drive To Save Young Son’s Life


     Devorah Cohen with her son ElishaHouston, TX – A Houston family has launched a petition to the Obama administration in an effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to allow their six year old son access to a treatment that they hope will cure his aggressive brain cancer.

    Elisha Cohen was diagnosed with anaplastic medulloblastoma in October of 2012 and since that time has undergone neurosurgery and high dose chemotherapy to treat his cancer. While tests showed that the treatments had initially eradicated the tumor, it returned several months later and was deemed by doctors to be untreatable.

    “The doctors told me to go home, to take my son to Disneyland,” Elisha’s mother, Devorah Cohen told VIN News. “But Jewish people don’t give up. It is not what we do.”

    With all conventional treatments exhausted, Mrs. Cohen and her husband Yaakov have been working with researchers and pursuing trial drugs to help find a cure for Elisha, her fifth and second to youngest child.

    One promising lead they uncovered is an alternative treatment that is in use at the Burzynski Clinic, located just fourteen miles from their home, called antineoplaston therapy.

    While the FDA pulled its approval for the treatment in July of 2012 pending further clinical trials and no longer permits the clinic to enroll any new participants, the Cohens are hoping that the FDA will grant Elisha a “compassionate use exemption” something that has been done 247 times in the past.

    Antineoplaston therapy, which uses synthetic chemicals to induce cancer cells to stop growing and to develop features that resemble normal cells, has been a source of controversy for many years. Developed by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski in the 1970’s, the treatment is only available in the United States at Burzynski’s clinic.

    According to a report on the American Cancer Society’s website, the National Cancer Institute has found no convincing evidence that antineoplaston therapy is effective in treating cancer and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s website warns “there is no conclusive evidence to support the antineoplaston theory.”

    Dr. Burzynski, who has offered to treat Elisha at no charge should the FDA grant the compassionate use exemption, disagreed with those findings, saying that the fourteen trials treating patients with malignant brain tumors have had good results and that the only impediment to FDA approval of Phase 3 trials of antineoplaston theory is paperwork.

    “It is a bureaucracy,” said Dr. Burzynski. “This child is dying of a malignant tumor. I believe that saving the lives of children should take precedence over bureaucracy but there are those in Washington who feel that paperwork is more important than kids’ lives.”

    For the Cohens, any chance at all of saving Elisha’s life is well worth pursuing.

    “I know that this is a controversial treatment that has serious side effects,” explained Mrs. Cohen. “This isn’t like giving my son candy, but there are people I spoke to who were told by doctors that they weren’t going to make it who are alive today after having antineoplaston therapy. I want the opportunity to give Elisha a chance to live.”

    The Cohens are hoping that by getting required 100,000 signatures on their petition the White House will appoint an outside committee to consider granting Elisha the compassionate exemption he needs to take part in the Burzynski Clinic trials.

    Just eight days after its launch, the petition has already garnered over 42,000 signatures.

    “This isn’t even about the signatures as much as it is about getting 100,000 people to pray for Elisha, which is the most important thing,” said Mrs. Cohen. “This is about achdus, about asking the Jewish people to unite and asking Hashem for the right eitza.”

    So far the Houston community has banded together to support the Cohen family, with nightly Tehillim groups at the Cohen home, challah baking and fundraisers, including one to be held this Motzei Shabbos at Congregation Beth Rambam in Southwest Houston.

    A website dedicated to raising funds for Elisha has already raised $73,526. Mrs. Cohen estimates that the nine trial drugs that Elisha is currently taking cost over $9,000 per month.

    “We are so good at forwarding jokes and stupid things,” said Mrs. Cohen. “Let’s take a minute and forward the petition.

    It only takes a few minutes to fill out and anyone over age 13 can sign, even if they are not a US citizen. But most importantly, please daven for Refael Elisha Meir ben Devora. Hashem can hear my son right now and we know that Hashem can bring Elisha a yeshua.”

    link to petition: here

    link to fundraising site: here

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    1. we need to get a NEW HEALTHCARE LAW that PROTECTS all LEGAL AMERICAN CITIZENS and TAXPAYERS not the illegal immigrant who want asylum in the United States to take away jobs from US citizens

    2. Antineoplastin and Dr. B have been around for years, and neither the drug nor the doctor has ever cured or improved any cancer. The FDA revoked his clinical trials because they never accomplished anything.
      I side with the FDA in NOT giving useless remedies for refractory cancers.
      Encouraging people to sign a petition is also not recommended.
      Desperate people believe in desperate measures.
      Be realistic with the situation and say Tehillim. Its less invasive than antineoplastin.
      I am a cancer doctor and have dealt with Bryzinski and quacks like him for over 20 years.

      • I can hear what you’re saying, but if there really isn’t anything that can help him why not try a useless protocol? It can’t do any more damage than doing nothing (or going to Disneyland….) and if it’s Hashem’s will that Elisha will be the first to have this method work how amazing would that be?

      • What past of “but there are people I spoke to who were told by doctors that they weren’t going to make it who are alive today after having antineoplaston therapy” did you not understand??

        • My heart goes out to this family, and none of us should ever experience their desperation;however, before you attack an experienced doctor, do some research of your own on this clinic. As much as Yidden value life and seek to prolong it, the doctor is wise for discouraging needless suffering. And the argument that “It can’t hurt!” is easy to say when talking about someone else. Most people would prefer to spend their final days at peace with their family instead of undergoing pointless and painful medical procedures. And that does not mean that they lack bitachon in Hashem’s greatness and His ability to do miracles.

      • Thank you for your compassion. Please let me know what kappitelach you are saying (as well as all the other callous people I have encountered about this. You all should be covering Sefer Tehillim several times over) Let me cut to the chase. It’s irrelevant is this guy is legit or not. The government should never be involved in this if it involves private funds. Whether you want to contribute is up to you but that’s not the petition. The petition is get out of my face Big Brother and allow me to try and save my child because I want to do whatever I can to save him whether or not you super genius experts agree with me or not. It’s called freedom. (not an immediate family member but a member of Klal Yisroel).

        • I’m not commenting on this specific case, and I did, in fact, sign the petition. However, its a bit silly of you to say the gov’t should never be involved in such matters. Years ago, before the FDA existed, there were fraudulent claims being made left and right about the efficacy of certain tonics and potions. We can’t just allow anybody to make whatever claims they want to try to defraud others. Again, I am not saying I’m against them allowing ‘compassionate use’ in this instance (assuming it is privately funded and not thought to be harmful to the poor child).

        • So you basically believe in closing the FDA, and anyone can release medication with a massive marketing compaign, and kill people in the process.

          The FDA approval from process started after many people were killed by money minded companies.

          • Actually, as I understand it, the approval process in it’s modern form started after the Thalidomide tragedy which resulted in the infamous ‘flipper’ babies in the 1950s. Of course, thalidomide is now used as a very important anti-cancer drug. It was not that it did not work, but the problem was it’s adverse effects and how they were kept under the table.

      • Sir, I’ve read the studies, heard speeches, and read overviews of his work, so have basically taken in all the Internet and pubmed have to offer on him and antineoplastins. I am curious what interactions you have had with him and what proof you offer. I am hoping it is more than just regurgitating all that I have just read and throwing your credentials behind it. And your claim that he never cured anyone is at odds with those people who claim he did cure them. There are certainly others who claim he took advantage of them and did not cure them or their family member, but no one has yet disproved his claimed successes. That is what is giving the people hope. Maybe they are wrong. So again, what direct experience do you have with him?

        One clarification. As I understand it, and based on the book by his [former] lawyer, Burzynski’s FDA trials were revoked due to his using them as a mechanism to treat patients rather than as a formal trial. This was done with a ‘nod and a wink’ to the FDA who originally allowed this to occur.

    3. To oncdoc
      1) if you really mean it seriously why would you post your real name & info
      2) have you been in the field to long that you have forgotten how to be compassionate to the parents ? I respect your opinion but I’m sure the parents have spoken it over with other dr and rabbis about what to do. So don’t forget your just one opinion . The gem’ says the best dr are to gehnim. Because the believe in them self not g-d.

    4. Sad situation, I understand the FDA’s point of view but if they already have a history of granting exceptions this is the perfect case to do so. Obviously this boy has loving parents who seem to understand his situation. I pray that this boy should have a miracle.

    5. Ondoc, I’m taken aback by your heartless and coldblooded comments or opinion for that matter. Did you not read the mother’s words that these 100000 signatures are for the greater good for uniting a 100000 people to say tehilim?

      Go find a doctor, because your brains are twisted, and yes, when you’ll need a 100000 signatures, we will come to the rescue…

    6. I wish their child a refuah shleimah, but the clinic where they want to take their son is well known for quackery. Houston has one of the greatest cancer centers in the world if they can not help him with the guidance of the RS”O then teffilot is all that is left.

    7. Unfortunately if these poor folks are waiting for Obama to do something decent, they have a long wait. Unless he sees a photo op or PR opportunity for himself, yeah then maybe. Refuah shelema kid, may Hashem help you to see a long and happy life

    8. I dont know the family i cannot help out financially i feel like i have known them i want to help in every way to get signatures if someone knows them please be in touch with me my e mail address is [email protected] what ever i can do to help i would luv to will there be a tehillim conference call i am willing to make calls do whatever thank u

    9. Being that I lost a family member to brain cancer I will say this to the ignorant commenters above. I am fully behind the statement of #3 who identified himself as an Oncologist.

      Its ignorant of you to argue with an oncologist, Its ignorant to attack the FDA, Its ignorant to think your Rabbi knows more than an oncologist. And it’s ignorant to think you will save this boys life by signing a petition.

      As said, the Burzyinski clinic has been around for some time. He hasn’t managed to save or improve anyone life. The FDA knows what they are doing. He’s a criminal that should rot in jail. People are desperate and fall for his scam and end up losing their loved one and their bank account.

      Burzyinski has no training in Oncology, his clinic will expose this boy to needless suffering and life-threatening side-effect.

      I wish this boy a Refuah Shlaima and a speedy recovery. My heart goes out for him, I know first hand what he and his family is going through.

      See this article from just a month ago:

      • it would be ignorant to ignore treatment that is expected to lead to some result. It is ignorant to follow your Rabbi’s plan if the medical specialist has a plan.
        When the oncologist’s only advice is to go to Disneyland I imagine the family can and should try anything. Remember how simple pen-v was found and you can scoff all you want.

      • Thank you for comment #12. It is the only rationale statement on this roster.
        If anyone had the “cure” for cancer, they would have won the Nobel Prize.
        As previously stated, desperate people looking for miracles grasp at anything, no matter how irrational.
        For commentator #10, 100,000 signatures will NOT open the FDA doors to approve treatment. The FDA is there to protect us from fraud and to ensure high quality medical research (none of which Dr. Burzynski has ever done).
        Yes, I am a Yale trained oncologist, but prefer to remain anonymous due to the malicious comments on this web page by poorly informed individuals.

        • If anyone had the “cure” for cancer, they would have won the Nobel Prize.

          As an “oncdoc” YOU should know that several cancers are NOW CURABLE. For an “oncdoc” to try give an impression otherwise, is just plain wrong.

          YOU might be “Yale trained”, however Yale didn’t teach you compassion.

    10. Allowing these untested therapies for use without evidence they really offer assistance is just one of many factors contributing to escalation of health costs. Somone has to make the tough decisions or the cost of health care for 99 percent of the population will go through the roof…

    11. I am a medical school professor with a PhD in biostatistics, and part of a National Cancer Institute funded cancer center. And my mother died from a brain tumor.

      Do not under any circumstances sign this petition or any other that promotes Burzynski or antineoplastons. Burzynski has been operating outside of the system for decades, using desperate children like this one as human guinea pigs. He has refused to do proper research and should have been shut down a long time ago. This petition will only give him credibility and attract others to his dangerous enterprise.

      I write this using my real name.

      Pray for Refael Elisha Meir ben Devora and for others with apparently untreatable cancer. But don’t promote people who are out to profit on the misery of others.

      • Charlie, thank you for your insights. Won’t this increased awareness also force Burzynski and the FDA to to a proper trial? And I agree with all you wrote that, which takes a much more conservative and rational tone than other ‘Drs’ that have opined. But still, as the protocol is presently prohibited, what exactly is the down side to the compassionate use exemption? That others will also petition for it? Perhaps this is the visibility required so the FDA can finally undertake the study they claimed to have abandoned due to lack of test subjects.

      • With all due respect, Doctor, I find your negativity on this matter hard to fathom. If you are an Torah observant Jew, you must know that you and all the other esteemed doctors who treat cancer, are shluchim from Above. Maybe Dr. Burzynski was chosen to be the shliach to heal Refoel Elisha. Hashem does not do miracles that go against the natural order of things, but He can do it indirectly even if this Dr. Burzynski turns out to be a quack. I’m sure you are well aware that there have been documented cases of spontaneous remission of cancers even though they were considered untreatable. Coming from a cold, observational and medically educated background, it’s understandable why you have your opinion. But from a Torah perspective, let this family do everything possible for one never knows how Hashem may possibly heal this precious child. A ganser Refuah Shelaimo! A cancer survivor…

    12. A very famous NYC cancer center is amenable to have their patients try Dr. B’s treatment, especially the lymphoma and leukemia specialists. When xxxx’s patients cannot be helped with standardized treatments such as RICE or ICE, patients travel to Dr. B. whom they say keeps their cancer stable, which is not a cure, but they are able to function, go back to work, and maintain a healthy lifestyle with his rigorous vegetable, herb, yoga, relaxation routine. Dr. B has worked with patients many times at no cost—patients who go to him consider him a miracle doctor. He is my hero.

    13. i know the Family well

      Rabbi Cohen was my 1st Chavrusa in Ertetz Yisroel

      please help this Family by YOUR Tifillos and signing this (rare and extreme) petition https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/authorize-fda-grant-compassionate-use-exemption-refael-elisha-cohen-antineoplaston-therapy/BVSP1ZkW


      1: Click the link above
      2: Click the blue button labeled “CREATE AN ACCOUNT”
      3: Fill in your email address , name and zip. and submit by clicking the “CREATE AN ACCOUNT” button
      You will be emailed a link to confirm your account.
      4: Open the email and click the link to confirm You will be returned to the website.
      5: Click blue button labeled “SIGN THIS PETITION”

      DONE thank you

      Pass this on to your friends

      and remember to Daven for Refael Elisha Meir Ben Devorah

      and the rest of AM Yisroel

    14. What a terrible situation for the family, please davven for them.

      Why doesn’t Burzynski offer his “miraculous” treatment to this family for free if it is so efficacious? Why is everyone blaming the President of the United States for not authorizing a bogus “treatment” that looks like total quackery.

      Quacks and fakers like Burzynski take advantage of tragic situations and desperate people.

    15. And the gasoline companies are suppressing my uncle’s great invention which allows cars to go hundreds of miles on one gallon!

      I’ve seen people lose their money with great personal cost while trying to “save” their loved ones from cancer seeking out Krebiezen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krebiozen) fifty years ago because of similar claims of miracle cure and government suppression until studies proved it worthless. It can be hard to accept that sometimes the Angel of Death wins.

    16. i read the article -my head was spinning with diff. emotions
      but i am very thankful to # 3 & # 12-
      are we commentaters quickly to accuse 2 doctors as callous when we dont even know them?
      do you think an oncologist wants a little child to pass on ?
      the parents have a right to choose between trying anything or going with ” teva” hashem yishmerahem
      the petition will offer the family much needed chizuk and klal yisroel as rachmonim will sign – but the docs have a point
      lastly i accompanied a middle age man to reb chaim shlita with a difficult case of the machla and reb chaim said ” use the time hashem has destined for you” how and when one balances the reality of living today verse trying quacky stuff????
      es tut azoi vey!!!!!!!!!!!! refuah bekarov

    17. we have to do what we can. and Hashem is going to do what He does…….in this casewe hope .. listen to all the tefillos for a refua sheelaima min hashamayim for refoel, elisha, meir ben devorah. Together with all jews that need a refua. amen

    18. The FDA is harming people with their fraudulent paper studies! Dr. Burzynski has been curing cancer for forty years. His antineoplaston is the only drug in the world to cure DIPGs or gliomas. He has been doing gene-targeting cancer treatment for ten years, and now conventional medicine is picking it up. Aside from this, people should be able to choose whatever they want for their diseases. Dictatorship by the FDA is abominable! Big Pharma owns the FDA! You oncologists who look down on Dr. B are jealous that he cures cancer and the patients love him for that.

    19. To Devorah: I have been spreading your message all over the internet for signatures on the petition; and I also sent letters to all the Senators and Congressmen with the current three people who need antineoplaston. We are pulling for you and praying for a cure for Elisha. Don’t listen to the skeptics; they are negative and abusive!


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