Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Kanzius/Lee County Florida/Cancer Trials

By JENNIFER BOOTH REED • • March 5, 2008

If a Sanibel man has indeed stumbled on the next great breakthrough in cancer treatment, the residents of Lee County will be among the first in the nation to try it out.

John Kanzius, the man who proposed using radio waves and nanoparticles to kill cancer cells, and Dr. Steven Curley, the researcher from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, announced Tuesday that Lee Memorial Health System likely will host one of about six human trial sites in the United States.

"When we start at M.D. Anderson, you will start here at the same time," he told a packed house at the South Fort Myers High School auditorium.

Human trials are five to six years away - about half that if Curley can raise the $8 million-or-so needed to buy equipment, pay researchers' salaries and conduct the experiments.

"This clearly is an extremely exciting opportunity both for cancer care and for Southwest Florida," said Dr. James Orr, the medical director of Lee Cancer Care.

Lee Memorial President Jim Nathan said it's the expertise of such local doctors that will allow the trials to take place here.

Nathan said he hopes Curley's faith in Lee doctors will convince people they don't have to go elsewhere for cutting-edge care.

The potential treatment works like this: Doctors inject cancer patients with nanoparticles and a targeting agent that seeks the cancer cells and allows the nanoparticles to latch on.

The patient will be exposed to radio waves. The waves will heat the nanoparticles, and the release of heat will kill the cancer cells. The process has worked in some animal trials.

Curley said he is studying seven different types of cancer: breast, colon, liver, pancreas, melanoma, lymphoma and leukemia - the kind of cancer that sickens Kanzius. When it comes time to seek FDA approval, Curley will first ask to treat liver cancer using gold nanoparticles and a kind of antibody that's already won FDA approval.

Meanwhile, Kanzius will be working to adapt his radio wave machine for humans.

Kanzius said he pushed for Lee to be included in the trial.

"The people of Southwest Florida have been very supportive. Why not do something to give back to the community?" he said.

Patients like Sherry Anderson, 53, of Fort Myers are eager for progress. She was diagnosed with a kind of lymphoma in 1993 and has also battled colon and liver cancer. Curley was her initial surgeon; she is now treated at Lee Memorial.

"To think of where we could go with this," Anderson said. "I'm waiting, hoping for a cure. They keep saying, 'We're right on the edge.'"

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