Local man’s creation targets, kills two types of cancer
They’ve demonstrated the “holy grail” of cancer research.
In a manuscript published Friday, researchers say they have successfully targeted and killed two of the most deadly types of cancer cells, colon and pancreatic, using the treatment invented by Sanibel Island and Erie, Pa. resident John Kanzius.
“This is what everybody’s been waiting for,” Kanzius said. “Can you target cancer cells? And the answer is ‘yes.’ Can you kill them? Yes. Can you target specific cancers? Yes.”
The experiments were conducted with live cancer cells in specimen dishes and not within animals, but the findings published on the Web site of the peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology have shown once again that a man with no formal medical training — and who continues his own battle with a rare form of B-cell leukemia — can develop a treatment capable of killing cancer.
Nonetheless, Kanzius gives all the credit to the researchers, led by Dr. Steven Curley, a professor of surgical oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, rated No. 1 in cancer treatment by U.S. News and World Report for four of the past six years.
“I had the idea, but they’re making it work. They’re the ones that deserve all the accolades. I consider myself just a small gear in the whole big process,” Kanzius said. “It is sort of funny, though, how I imagined this working when I first started working on the equipment that the first two tests would use all the elements that I thought of — antibodies and radio frequency.”
Kanzius, 64, developed the treatment after witnessing first-hand the affect cancer had on children undergoing chemotherapy treatments, which he first saw while undergoing his own treatment in 2003. During chemo-induced sleepless nights, Kanzius couldn’t keep the idea out of his head: there had to be a better way.
His idea was to use his extensive background in radio transmitters to develop a harmless, low-frequency field of radio waves capable of heating metal. The small pieces of metal would be targeted to specific cancer cells on the backs of synthetic, disease-fighting antibody cells created in a lab. Heat the metal in the cells with the radio frequency field, it was thought, and the cancer would be destroyed.
The researchers have already demonstrated they can kill cancer cells in laboratory animals using Kanzius’ device and microscopic pieces of gold known as nanoparticles, which are non-toxic and so small 75,000 to 100,000 of them can fit across the tip of a human hair.
But those experiments, published Oct. 2007, had the nanoparticles injected directly into tumors, not targeted to specific cancer cells.
Curley announced the successes demonstrated in the manuscript in a letter to supporters earlier this month.
“This will be the first manuscript that proves that we can target nanoparticles to a specific abnormality on cancer cells, and increase the killing by getting more nanoparticles into the cells,” Curley said.
For the experiment, Curley worked with six other researchers from M.D. Anderson, Harvard University, the Mayo Clinic and Rice University. The researchers placed the pancreatic and colon cancer cells into specimen dishes with the nanoparticle-antibody pairs.
Breast cancer cells, which the antibodies are unable to target, were also placed with the targeting pairs in dishes as a control group.
After 24 hours of incubation, the dishes were placed in Kanzius’ radio frequency field for two minutes. The results? Nearly 100 percent of the colon and pancreatic cancer cells were destroyed, while the breast cancer cells and other cells in the dishes remained unharmed.
The treatment’s ability to hunt down and destroy cancer no matter where it hides in the body would allow for treatment of cancer that has metasticised, or spread to other parts of the body.
Curley believes the treatment will be effective with many types of cancer.
“We’re now working on other types of cancer cells, including breast, liver, prostate, leukemia and ovarian,” Curley said in an Erie Times-News article published Friday.
Others in the medical community see promise as well, among them the editor-in-chief of the journal that published the manuscript, Dr. Dominic Fan, who also works at M.D. Anderson.
“This is indeed an innovative mode of cancer management,” Fan said, “that hopefully can be used to target metastatic diseases where conventional surgical intervention by itself can be inadequate.”
In his letter, Curley said talks with the Food and Drug and Administration have already begun.
“We plan to schedule a meeting with them in early 2009 to discuss the steps necessary to get this treatment to human clinical trials,” Curley said.
If the research gets to human clinical trials, which some of the researchers have estimated may occur within the next two years, Lee Memorial Health System is expected to be a site early on for the experiments.
The research, which is funded through donations to Kanzius’ research foundation, has also attracted a lot of attention from politicians in Pennsylvania, who have secured further funding, and celebrities, among them legendary golfer Arnold Palmer and actress Sharon Stone, who is reportedly interested in the treatment’s promise of targeting and destroying other pathogens like HIV.
In the coming months, Kanzius said several more manuscripts are expected. One of those will be a study done on blood samples given by leukemia patients in Pennsylvania, in which the treatment was applied. Results of animal tests are also expected.
The co-director of the Liver Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Dr. David Geller, who conducted research into the machine early on, said the new manuscript appears to be a “logical step forward.”