Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 6, 2007 - The Next Big Thing in Cancer Treatment?

One of the realities of being a person with cancer at this time in history is that there are a number of promising treatment programs on the horizon. Among the strangest of these – “strange” in terms of where it came from – and among those offering the greatest paradigm-busting potential, is a technique invented by a man who isn’t a cancer researcher at all.

His name is John Kanzius. He’s a retired television broadcast executive and inventor who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. He also has leukemia. When he was diagnosed, he began to turn his creative energies to thinking about how radio waves might be useful as a weapon against cancer.

Knowing something of nanotechnology – a frontier of physics, in which scientists work with very tiny particles to accomplish various tasks – Kanzius postulated a system in which microscopic metal particles would be injected into a cancer patient’s body. Those particles would have previously been bonded to a targeting molecule that seeks out and attaches itself to cancer cells.

This targeting molecule is similar, I think, to the molecule at the heart of Rituxan, the monoclonal antibody therapy I received along with my chemotherapy – although, instead of being bonded to a chemical agent, it would be bonded to these metal molecules. If I’m right about that, then it’s also similar to Bexxar and Zevalin, the promising radioimmunotherapy drugs that bond radioactive particles to the same targeting molecule.

Kanzius’ approach is different in that it represents a third way. The curative agent would not be chemical, and not radioactive, either, but metallic. Once the metal nanoparticles would have found their place, attaching themselves to the surface of cancer cells, the patient’s body would be bombarded with low-frequency radio waves, heating the nanoparticles and cooking the cancer cells to death. No other cells would be affected, because the cancer cells would be the only ones that had the nanoparticles attached to them.

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that Kanzius has thought up a way to microwave cancer cells.

It’s simple, elegant – and, it just might work.

So think a number of experts, anyway. There’s evidently getting to be a buzz around Kanzius’ work, as seen in this news article.

CBS News has also done a story on Kanzius and his machine. Click HERE to view it.

The thing that will make or break his invention, of course, are the nanoparticles. Can they be successfully bonded to the targeting molecule and delivered precisely to the malignant cells that need to be heated, without leaving quantities of stray nanoparticles behind that could harm healthy tissue? This is something beyond Kanzius’ engineering expertise. It will require the work of biochemists.

But still, it’s a promising development. It reminds me of some other significant inventions that have been created by passionate, outside-the-box thinkers who worked outside recognized academic and research institutions. I’m thinking of Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, who were essentially backyard tinkerers; of Albert Einstein, who was working as a patent clerk at the time he published his groundbreaking papers on relativity; and also the Australian physicians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who came up with the bold idea that stomach ulcers might be attributable to bacteria, then won the Nobel Prize because they were right.

It’s still way too early to say if John Kanzius is cut from the same cloth. But, he could be.

2 comments:

bint alshamsa said...

I just wanted to let you know that even though I don't always comment, I am still a regular reader. This latest research is definitely reason for us to keep hopeful.

Carlos ("Carl") said...

Glad you're still reading here, Bint. I keep up with your blog as well.