Inventor, researchers find device can target cancer cells
Published: April 15. 2008 6:00AM
John Kanzius as he is being interviewed in an overhead walkway to the M D Anderson Cancer Center Feb. 28. (Rob Engelhardt / Erie Times-News)
John Kanzius couldn't believe what he was hearing in his earpiece.
Kanzius, a Millcreek Township inventor, was being interviewed live Monday on CBS' "Early Show" about his radio-frequency generator. Researchers at two prestigious cancer centers are testing the device to see if it can treat cancer in humans.
One of those researchers, Steven Curley, M.D., of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was telling "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith that his team has successfully targeted cancer cells with tiny pieces of metal -- an important step in the process.
"I just about fell out of my chair," Kanzius said after being interviewed by the "Early Show" from his winter home in Sanibel, Fla. "I knew the news, but I had no idea that Steve was going to talk about it on national television."
Kanzius was featured Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes," which broadcast a segment on Kanzius' device.
Since the broadcast, Kanzius said he has been bombarded with e-mails and telephone calls.
"It started almost immediately after '60 Minutes' ended," Kanzius said. "I've received more than 100 e-mails."
Both Kanzius and Curley said the "60 Minutes" piece told their story accurately. The 12-minute segment focused on Kanzius, who invented the device in 2003 after he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
Reporter Lesley Stahl also interviewed Curley and David Geller, M.D., the lead researcher on the Kanzius project at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
They told Stahl that Kanzius' device is designed to beam high-frequency radio waves into the body, after cancer cells are targeted with microscopic pieces of metal, called nanoparticles.
Radio waves are harmless to the body, but heat metal. Cancer cells containing the nanoparticles would be destroyed, but healthy cells would be left unharmed.
Earlier tests had shown the device completely kills cancerous tumors in living animals.
Since those tests, Curley and his team have been trying to target cancer cells with nanoparticles, without placing them in healthy cells. His comment on the "Early Show" indicates they have been successful.
"We are preparing a manuscript on targeting in four different lines of human cancer cells, and animal work is starting next month," Curley said in an e-mail Monday.
The CBS broadcasts have had a dramatic effect on the John Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation and its new Web site. The foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to raising money for research on Kanzius' device.
The new site went up just days before the broadcasts and is already being visited by computer users across the country.
"We have received between 20,000 and 30,000 visits since 7 p.m. Sunday," said Brian Barnes, owner of High Recall Advertising, the Missouri-based agency that built and operates the site for the foundation. "We're getting one to two donations a minute, for a total of about $10,000 so far."
The next step for Kanzius is to return to Erie in May and begin working at Industrial Sales and Manufacturing Inc., in Millcreek, to build a larger generator to use in human trials.
"Those are my orders from Steve," Kanzius said with a laugh.
@ Foundation's site: www.johnkanziuscancerresearchfoundation.org.
DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail.