ONLY ON 13 NEWS: Cancer Scheme Under Investigation

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After Duke University contacted local police about a potential cancer scheme, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a woman suspected of lying about having a rare form of cancer.  

Amber Buskirk says she’s been battling an aggressive form of brain cancer for almost two years.

“I had a pet scan in October, on Halloween of October 2014, and I was diagnosed with stage 4 Glioblastoma which is brain cancer,” said Buskirk.

 That’s when she says she started preparing for the fight of her life.

 “I do aggressive forms of chemo, I do a clinical trial from Duke, and I also do chemo and radiation. I’m on constant antibiotics as well to try and combat things because I do not have an immune system,” said amber Buskirk. 

 Amber says choosing to participate in the clinical trial at Duke was difficult and very expensive.

 “You get to the point where you say do I pay the electric bill or do I buy what I need to take care of myself,” said Amber.

To offset those costs, She set up a go fund me account. She says her situation has been hard to explain.

“I get injected with polio, it goes through my port, but people get freaked out about it. There is even a nurse at the cancer center that gets freaked out about it,” said Buskirk.

While her fight has not been easy, she says she is grateful for the team helping her.

 “There’s one specific Dr. that has made it and he has a team that helps him keep track. His name is Dr. Bigner,” said Amber. 

13 News reporter Hillary Hall reached out to Dr. Bigner to learn more about Amber’s treatment. In an email, a staff member at Duke replied that Amber Buskirk is not and has never been a patient on the poliovirus clinical trail at Duke. 

Amber’s description of having polio injected into her port doesn’t match the online information on clinicaltrials.gov where the Duke study is available. 

It says the treatment  is delivered in a single infusion directly into the tumor via catheter, not through a port in her chest as Amber described. 

These inconsistencies concerned the founders of a non profit cancer foundation.

“She sent us an email from a nurse asking to help her financially. Our organization only helps children so we said we could help her by sharing her story on our son’s Facebook page.” said Mina Chambers.

Jeremy and Mina Chambers are the founders of the Be Brave Foundation in Florida.

They started the group after their son Joshua was diagnosed with leukemia almost four years ago. 

Friends of the foundation provided her with tickets to Ohio State football games and were trying to help her find funding for her treatments.

Jeremy requested a signed letter from Amber’s doctor at the Charleston Area Medical Center with her diagnosis.

She provided him with a screen shot of an email signed by a surgical oncologist at CAMC. 

After reaching out to the hospital, Jeremy was able to confirm that Amber Buskirk has not been a patient at CAMC since 2013. 

“We realized that she had forged that signature so we contacted the Dr.’s office and said that we received a letter from Dr. Elmore and we need to verify before we can offer assistance. His receptionist ran it through the system and said no she is not and Dr. Elmore does not do brain,” said Jeremy Chambers.

 While it doesn’t appear that Amber is being treated at Duke or CAMC, she still asks for financial help to pay for her treatments online.

Her gofundme account had more than $17,000 in it.

She has also benefited from local fundraisers and other online crowd funding sites.

13 News reporter Hillary Hall asked Amber to explain these discrepancies. 

HILLARY: “I asked them (DUKE) specifically about your treatments and they emailed me back and said that you are not a patient at Duke and you haven’t been.”

AMBER BUSKIRK: “Yes I am. I am underneath the, umm, I am underneath the trial so therefore I am considered a patient and I am a number. I do not, they do not, they are not allowed to give you my name,”. 

 Doctors from the brain tumor center at Duke say her story doesn’t add up.

“It has never happened that a patient has only known by a number. We would have a name. A chart with that persons name on it, the name would be in all of the medical records at Duke which are electronic now. There is no way that a patient could be on a trial at Duke without a name,” said Dr. Henry Friedman, Deputy Director of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University.

 15 minutes after questioning Amber about her claims, her gofundme.com account was pulled down.

The  Chambers’ family feels betrayed. 

“All of the help she received could have gone to someone who actually has cancer.” said Mina Chambers.

The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office has not been able to provide any specific details into their investigation of 36-year-old Amber Buskirk.

Stay with 13 News as we continue to follow this story. 

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