Houston, 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