Thursday, July 17, 2008

Contributing toward finding a cure

By MIKE CAPUTOJuly 17, 2008
While sitting on the couch watching television at his Garden Town home, Dr. Stephen Freedman envisioned a cure for cancer.
His vision was guided by a television feature, which focused on the progress made by Dr. Steven Curley and John Kanzius, who have made strides toward finding a method to kill cancer cells.

After watching that news feature on an April edition of 60 Minutes, Freedman felt compelled to pick up the phone and call Curley. Freedman was confident that his idea could contribute toward achieving nearly every scientist's dream of finding a cure for cancer. But he still couldn't pick up the phone.

"I figured I'd better wait, might as well wait, he will never get back to me," Freedman said. "I mean he is on 60 Minutes, he is probably being barraged with telephone calls."

So he waited. About a month later, Freedman gathered up the courage to make the call to Curley's office at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. A receptionist answered, and promised to pass along Freedman's message. Before he even checked for a return call, Freedman had a message waiting for him at his Adelphi University office less than 24 hours after he phoned Curley.

"It was mind-blowing," Freedman said. "I never expected this."

Freedman, a chemistry professor at Adelphi, told Curley that his extensive work with peptides could possibly enhance the renowned researcher's experiment. Curley, a surgeon and medical researcher, teamed up with Kanzius, a cancer patient and a former radio and television technician, to use radiowaves and nanoparticles to kill cancer cells. Using the heat from radiowaves, Curley and Kanzius' method attaches nanoparticles onto antibodies that make their way to the cancer cells to destroy them.

"I have got to tell you in 20 years of research, this is the most exciting thing I have ever encountered," Curley told 60 Minutes.

Freedman, 59, determined that instead of using antibodies, peptides could be more efficient. That is because if nanoparticles attach to the smaller protein-based peptide, they could have an easier time getting to the cancer cells. According to Freedman, Curley took his idea seriously, and plans to run tests sometime in August.

Making an impact on a potentially groundbreaking study to cure cancer is extra special to Freedman, who lost his 75-year-old father to cancer in 1993.

"It was the worst experience of my life, to see my father waste away with cancer," Freedman said. "This whole experiment has a special meaning."

Freedman has lived in Hewlett since 2005, when he started teaching at area colleges, first at St. John's and now at Adelphi. He spent several years teaching chemistry at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Freedman, who grew up in Brooklyn, earned his doctorate from Utah State University; a Master's of Science from Polytechnic University; and his Bachelor of Science from Brooklyn College.

It's still early in the experimentation process, and there are still many questions to answer. Though he claims not to be religious, Freedman explained that it is important to have faith for such projects to succeed.

"I request that readers say a prayer for a positive result," he said.

However, he does believe luck will factor in.

"We have so many of the greatest minds working on a cure for cancer, yet there is no cure," Freedman said. "It will take a dramatic stroke of luck to come upon the ultimate answer."

Freedman can be contacted by e-mail at

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