John Kanzius is going prime time with his promising invention for cancer treatment.
Leslie Stahl will interview the Washington County native, who invented a radiofrequency (RF) generator four years ago to treat cancer, and tell his story tomorrow on CBS Television's "60 Minutes."
"It has gone from a Western Pennsylvania story to a major international story with the '60 Minutes' piece," Mr. Kanzius said from his home in Sanibel Island, Fla.
Successful inventions often end up with more uses than baking soda, and that may be the case with the Kanzius RF generator.
When he developed it years ago, his sole intent was a cancer treatment that worked without side effects.
So far, so good.
Research on his invention is on a fast track at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The growing body of research proves his generator thermally kills cancer cells spiked with RF-reactive nanoparticles.
But last year, Mr. Kanzius discovered his RF generator also burns salt water. When Rustum Roy, a Penn State University water expert and chemist, saw it demonstrated on a YouTube video, he traveled to the laboratory that Mr. Kanzius uses in Erie to witness it firsthand.
Since then he and Mr. Kanzius have signed a cooperative agreement to study and develop the technology for commercial applications, including salt-water desalination, pollution cleanup and using RF to alter solids and metals.
Dr. Roy has shown that RF causes oxygen and hydrogen atoms to separate then reunite, creating a flame more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and pure water. The RF generator is powered by electricity. The ratio of energy used vs. energy generated has yet to be determined.
"It's such an unbelievable fact -- so unbelievable that no one wants to believe it," Dr. Roy said. "It has one advantage -- an infinite and easy supply" of sea water.
Desalinating salt water while generating recoverable energy "is a tree-hugger's dream," he said. "This is a very major discovery in science."
These days Mr. Kanzius, 64, splits time between Erie and Sanibel Island, while undergoing chemotherapy for b-cell leukemia. He's raising money for the cancer research, has applied for about 50 patents and continues upgrading his inventions.
His story stands out because Mr. Kanzius is neither a doctor nor a college graduate. He holds only a technical degree from the former Allegheny Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. Before retiring, he owned Jet Broadcasting Inc. in Erie, which operated radio and television stations. He never pondered a cancer treatment until he was diagnosed with cancer and witnessed the ill effects chemotherapy and radiation therapy had on fellow patients.
While on chemo, he spent sleepless nights doing research, which eventually made a pile from floor to ceiling. His goal became to kill cancer with physics rather than medicine. Within months he'd built a prototype for his RF generator by using his wife Marianne's pie pans then tested it by injecting metallic particles into hot dogs and steaks. The RF cooked only the injected areas.
His ideas drew early interest from Dr. David A. Geller, co-director of the UPMC Liver Cancer Center, then Dr. Steven Curley, a liver cancer specialist at M.D. Anderson -- the No. 1 cancer research center in the world. They now are conducting research using Mr. Kanzius' equipment and general protocol.
The current hope is to use the Kanzius treatment on a wide range of cancers with added interest in applying the procedure to fungal, viral and bacterial infections.
For now, the goal is developing a means to tag RF-sensitive nanoparticles with antigens or proteins so they infiltrate only cancer cells. Once nanoparticles are inside cancer cells, RF can heat them to deadly temperatures in seconds or minutes without affecting healthy tissue.
Last May, Dr. Curley described the Kanzius project as "the most exciting new therapy for cancer" he's seen in his 20 years of research.
In February, Dr. Geller at UPMC presented a paper to a large group of surgeons at the Academic Surgical Congress in Los Angeles that showed that tumors under the skin can be destroyed with RF when injected with gold nanoparticles developed at Pitt. The research will be published in August in the journal Surgery.
"In looking back after three years of working on the radiowave research, I have more enthusiasm than ever, in part because the machine does generate heat, and gold nanoparticles are excellent enhancers to focus the RF," Dr. Geller said.
The ideal, he said, is to create nanoparticles that serve "as homing pigeons" to cancer.
"There's no question that momentum is growing and the ongoing press coverage, as well as '60 Minutes' coverage, makes me want to be enthusiastic without providing false hope," he said, suggesting that patients seek other forms of treatment in the meantime. "The goal is to move the cancer research forward as quickly as possible to find tomorrow's cure."
Mr. Kanzius describes his experience to date as "an amazing odyssey."
"The sooner it gets into human trials, the happier I'll be," he said.