Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes
Last Sunday, 60 Minutes profiled John Kanzius, an inventor who may have come up with one of the most promising breakthroughs in cancer research in years. It’s still in the experimental stage and much research needs to be done, but if future clinical trials are successful, the Kanzius Machine will destroy cancer cells throughout the body without need for drugs or surgery.
John Kanzius was diagnosed with terminal leukemia six years ago. Watching children endure difficult chemo treatments while he was undergoing his own chemotherapy motivated him to come up with an alternative. At the start of his interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, he said :
I have no business being in the cancer business. It’s not something that a layman like me should in, it should be left to doctors and research people.
[Lesley Stahl: But sometimes it takes an outsider.]
Sometimes it just — maybe you get lucky.
And lucky he has been. Kanzius is a retired radio technician and station owner. As an alternative to chemotherapy, his idea was to build a radio-wave machine that focused radio waves to destroy cancer cells. Kanzius knew that strong radio waves could heat metal and wondered if metal injected in a tumor would heat up when placed in a radio-wave field, thereby killing the cells. Following initial experiments with a garage-built prototype, he spent about $200,000 to have an advanced version of his radio-wave machine built. Using hotdogs injected with copper sulfate (an aqueous metal solution), Kanzius found that he could heat up small regions injected with the metal by placing them in a radio-wave field, leaving surrounding areas unharmed.
Dr. Steven Curley and colleagues at the MD Anderson Cancer Center have begun testing Kanzius’ radio-wave technology on animals. Instead of copper sulfate, the researchers are using single-walled carbon nanotubes — molecular-scale tubes of graphitic carbon that, among other unique properties, are efficient conductors of heat. The nanoparticles are so small, thousands of them can fit inside a single cell. In a paper published in the December 2007 issue of the journal Cancer, the researchers demonstrated that, when exposed to a non-invasive radiofrequency (RF) field, an aqueous suspension of carbon nanotubes injected in malignant liver cancer tumors in rabbits produced lethal thermal injury to cancer cells . The controls, tumors exposed only to the RF field or only to the nanotubes, were undamaged. However, some healthy liver tissue surrounding the cancerous tissue sustained heat damage due to nanotube leakage from the tumor.
Thus far, the technique has only been used on solid, localized tumors in animals by injection. The next step is to evaluate methods for targeting the nanotubes so they attach to and are taken up by cancer cells and not normal cells. According to Curley, the targeting of nanotubes to cancer cells and not to normal cells is a major challenge in advancing the therapy . Researchers are looking to bind the nanotubes to antibodies, peptides or other agents that would target molecules expressed exclusively on cancer cells.
Gold nanoparticles have also been shown recently to enhance non-invasive RF thermal destruction of human gastrointestinal cancer cells in vitro .
Dr. Curley estimates that human clinical trials are at least three to four years away . Using physics-based concepts, the Kanzius Machine is a potential new cancer treatment that may one day replace chemotherapy and surgery. That said, remember that many cancer therapies that have been promising in vitro and in animal models didn’t work in humans. There is zero evidence this will work in humans and targeting is a major issue that has to be overcome first.
- The Kanzius Machine: A Cancer Cure? 60 Minutes. 2008 Apr 13.
Gannon et al. Carbon nanotube-enhanced thermal destruction of cancer cells in a noninvasive radiofrequency field. Cancer. 2007 Dec 15;110(12):2654-65.
- Radio Waves Fire Up Nanotubes Embedded in Tumors, Destroying Liver Cancer. M.D. Anderson News Release. 2007 Nov 1.
Gannon et al. Intracellular gold nanoparticles enhance non-invasive radiofrequency thermal destruction of human gastrointestinal cancer cells. J Nanobiotechnology. 2008 Jan 30;6:2.