Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cancer treatment innovator dies

Kanzius developed radio-based device to treat disease


POSTED: February 21, 2009
Part-time Sanibel resident John Kanzius, a retired radio engineer and innovator of a groundbreaking radio-based device designed to cure cancer, died Wednesday from complications related to his own cancer treatment.

Kanzius, 64, was a patient at Health Park Medical Center receiving care for a bout of pneumonia he contracted after two recent rounds of chemotherapy to combat b-cell Leukemia. He is survived by his wife, Marianne; two daughters, Sherry Kanzius and Toni Palmer; and two grandchildren.

Kanzius made national headlines after designing the device capable of transmitting radio waves to essentially burn out cancerous cells. Last year he was interviewed on 60 Minutes and his unique innovation has been featured on countless news programs.

Scientists were initially shocked when Kanzius, without any formal medical degree or training, showcased the device he designed in his free time. His story began in 2003 after several painful rounds of chemotherapy when - according to an interview with the Los Angeles Times - Kanzius awoke at 2 a.m. with the idea to create a device to burn the cancer out of his body.

Since the 1960s Kanzius had worked as a broadcast engineer and later a manager in a number of radio stations across the United States.

It took several months for him to use spare wires, boxes, antennas and even his wife's pie pans to assemble the device, which he later presented to Dr. Steven Curley from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Richard Smalley, a Nobel Prize winning specialist in nanoscience, also assisted with perfecting the nanotubes used in the treatment before his death from cancer in 2005.

Because his residence was on Sanibel after retiring from Eerie, Pa., Kanzius approached officials from Lee Memorial Health System to include them in human trials.

Sharon MacDonald, vice president of Oncology at Lee Memorial Health System, kept regular correspondence with Kanzius up until the week he passed away. She first met Kanzius in 2007 when he approached her and LMHS President Jim Nathan about including Lee County hospitals in the research behind the cure for cancer.

"I talked to him last week and we talked about the trial and his treatment and family," said MacDonald. "Beside having a great intellect he was also well loved by his family and the community."

The local health system has been handpicked to host human trials for the device following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Currently, researchers are in the final stages of animal testing.

"We were good colleagues and I had great respect for him and his family," said MacDonald.

Researchers agree that if perfected the device could serve as an alternative to invasive cancer treatment.

In the work behind the Kanzius Radio Frequency Generator, Curley's research team was capable of killing cancer cells in rabbits within 120 seconds. During the experiment carbon nanotubes, or hollow cylinders made of pure carbon, were placed in a rabbit's cancerous liver and heated with radio waves.

In a statement published on the John Kanzius Research Foundation, Curley said he would continue whatever is necessary to perfect the technology and find a cure.

"John's legacy must and will live on. I will continue this important research work with renewed vigor and focus because I despise this disease that has stolen another brilliant individual from us," said Curley.

During a presentation of the device last year Curley said his team was concerned about some tissue around the nanotube sustaining heat damage during the process. Researchers have also been looking into using gold nanoparticles and a study published by the Journal of Nanobiotechnology in 2008 showed promising results.

"Our next step is to look at ways to more precisely target the nanotubes so they attach to, and are taken up by, cancer cells while avoiding normal tissue," said Curley at the end of 2007.

The John Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation continues to accept donations for research but officials are disappointed that he will never be able to see the device reach fruition.

"We will not stop until John's vision becomes reality," said Maryann Yochim, president of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation. "Our only regret at this point is that John will not be here to see the first cancer patient cured with his technology. But, we believe strongly that this will happen. It's only a matter of time."

The Dusckas-Martin Funeral Home in Millcreek, Penn. will handle Kanzius' funeral arrangements this weekend. The foundation Web site is