BY DAVID BRUCE
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Published: August 19. 2008 1:10AM
John Kanzius, left, waits near a prototype of the radio-frequency device he invented, at Industrial Sales and Manufacturing Inc., in Millcreek Township on July 23. Steven Curley, M.D., principal investigator for Kanzius' device at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was visiting to see if Erie might host human trials on the device as early as 2010. (Greg Wohlford / Erie Times-News)
John Kanzius used to have trouble getting government officials interested in his experimental cancer-treatment device.
Now they seem to be eager to help him.
U.S. Rep. Phil English, of Erie, R-3rd Dist., visited Kanzius' lab Monday to promise $500,000 in federal funding for the external radio-frequency generator. The House Committee on Appropriations has approved the funds, and the House could act on it as early as September, English said.
The bill must still be approved by the full House and Senate and signed by President Bush, though English said "it's very close" to being a done deal.
"This is the kind of project the federal government should support," English said.
English is the latest high-ranking public official to meet with Kanzius. The Millcreek Township inventor had lunch with Gov. Ed Rendell last week, and Kanzius demonstrated his cancer-killing device to Sen. Bob Casey in early July.
Government funding is crucial, Kanzius said, because it can speed research at both M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"Just like when you spread fertilizer on the ground to grow grass more quickly, funding research helps get you results more quickly," Kanzius said.
It will cost about $10 million to fund all of the work needed to take Kanzius' device to human trials, said Steven Curley, M.D., principal investigator for Kanzius' device at M.D. Anderson. The device works by emitting radio waves that heat and destroy cancer cells targeted with tiny pieces of metal, called nanoparticles.
The $500,000 appropriation wouldn't be the first federal appropriation for Kanzius' device -- U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter has helped provide $384,000 in funding for the project -- but it would be the largest.
The money would cover the cost of four researchers at M.D. Anderson or UPMC for an entire year, Kanzius said.
"You're buying time," he said. "You're buying lives."
Interest has grown in Kanzius' device since a "60 Minutes" report aired April 13. It has gained worldwide attention as a possible treatment for a variety of cancers.
"I'm hearing a lot more feedback from the public," English said. "It's something people are aware of and truly support."
Kanzius said continued success at the two research centers has also spurred interest.
"And I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg," Kanzius said. "It's the beginning of a huge groundswell of research dollars."
It's not known how the $500,000 would be divided between UPMC and M.D. Anderson. English said it would be up to the John Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation.
DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail.
You can donate to the Kanzius Project by visiting www.johnkanziuscancerresearchfoundation.org or by mailing a check or money order to the John Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation, 915 State St., Erie, PA 16501.