It’s an incredible story and it starts with cancer patient John Kanzius, a retiree with no medical or scientific training or even a college degree. Yet he may have found a revolutionary new way to kill cancer. And do it with no side effects.
John is an ex-businessman and radio technician who was diagnosed six years ago with terminal leukemia. Fighting for his life, he’s endured 36 rounds of brutal, sickening toxic chemotherapy.
But one night as he lay in bed sick to his stomach and in terrible grief, an idea came to him. As a boy, John built radios, and he understood the power of radio waves. Ill from chemo, he stumbled out of bed and rushed to the kitchen and began building a radio wave machine.
What motivated him? Not his leukemia, but his vivid memories of the desperately sick children in the cancer ward at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “I saw the smiles of youth and saw their spirits broken,” John told correspondent Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes. “And you could see they were sort of asking, ‘Why can’t they do something for me?’”
Their faces haunted John and he recalled some of them holding their little Teddy Bears.
Unlike the giant labs funded with millions of dollars and containing vast amounts of equipment and personnel, John had to work with what little he had, which included his wife Marianne’s pie pans, as he setup a lab in their garage.
What John created and has since advanced with $200,000 of his and Marianne’s savings is a box that sends intense radio waves to another box, generating sufficient energy between the boxes to light a fluorescent bulb. He demonstrated its safety for Leslie Stahl, putting his hand in the waves to show they are harmless and painless.
But how does this kill cancer cells? John knew powerful radio waves can heat metal. So what if a tumor was injected with metal then blasted with an intense radio wave beam? Would the heated metal destroy the cancer cells but not harm anything around them?
To find out, John went to the family refrigerator and took out a hot dog, a test he demonstrated for 60 Minutes. He injected a spot on the hot dog, then blasted it with radio waves. Afterwards when they checked, that spot was hot but not the rest of the hot dog.
John believed he’d found a way to kill cancer cells without the destruction to the body caused by radiation and chemotherapy. Today, his concept is being tested by two major research facilities, the University of Pittsburgh and M.D. Anderson, where liver cancer specialist Dr. Steven Curley is conducting the tests.
“This technology may allow us to treat just about any kind of cancer you can imagine,” Dr. Curley told Leslie Stahl. “I’ve gotta tell you, in 20 years of research, this is the most exciting thing I’ve encountered.”
In part, that’s because John shared another extraordinary idea with Dr. Curley. Combine radio waves with space age technology, metal or carbon nanoparticles. They’re so tiny, millions of them could be injected into a cancer cell, and the radio waves would annihilate the cancer.
This led to a fascinating coincidence. Dr. Rick Smalley, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering carbon nanoparticles, was a cancer patient at M.D. Anderson, and seen by Dr. Curley. Dr. Curley explained to Dr. Smalley what they were doing and asked for some of his nanoparticles.
“It won’t work,” Dr. Curley recalled Dr. Smalley telling him. “And [he] just laughed and said, ‘Well, look, I’ll give you some. But don’t be too disappointed.’”
One August day in 2005, John and Dr. Curley put it to the test. Shortly afterwards a very excited Dr. Curley called Dr. Smalley. ‘Rick, you’re not going to believe this. He just blew the smithereens out of your nanoparticles,’ John told Leslie Stahl.
What did Dr. Smalley say? “The only thing I got out of him after this pause was, “Holy s…’” Dr. Curley said. A short time later, Dr. Smalley died of lymphoma. But the former skeptic had become a huge supporter of John’s and Dr. Curley’s concepts.
“He didn’t expect it, but he embraced it to his death bed when he told Dr. Curley this will change medicine forever. Don’t stop no matter what you do,” John told Leslie Stahl.
And they’ve not stopped. Radio wave heated nanoparticles have now killed cancer in rabbits and rats. Progress has been excellent but they’ve not yet treated cancer cells that’ve spread to other parts of the body. This is the form of cancer that often kills people and those tough little cells are hard to detect.
“If we can’t target the microscopic cells this is not going to be a cure,” Dr. Curley said. But Dr. Curley is actively addressing this problem and demonstrated a possible solution to Leslie Stahl in which the nanoparticles would go through the body to bind on to cancer cells.
In the best case, it will be four years from now before human trials can begin. But John may not have that much time left. So to pickup the pace in research, he’s attracted major media coverage and is raising millions of dollars for the cause.
To potentially buy him more time, John may have to have a bone marrow transplant in addition to the six horrific years of chemo he’s already endured. At first he decided not to, he’d had enough, and then he told Leslie Stahl what changed his mind.
“I changed my mind because I think with all the research that’s going on with the institutions; that maybe, I’d like to be around for the first patient to get treated and just have a smile. Then I don’t care anymore.”