Sanibel Island inventor and cancer patient John Kanzius demonstrates his cancer-fighting machine. Watch »
NAPLES — The patents for a cancer treatment that Sanibel Island resident John Kanzius applied for before his death have been approved.
A chemo-related pneumonia infection claimed Kanzius’ life February 18. He had been diagnosed with a rare form of b-cell leukemia in 2002, and after seeing the faces of children in leukemia wards, he focused his life on developing a better treatment while battling the side effects of his own.
Since then, the treatment Kanzius developed without a college degree or any previous knowledge of medicine has gained worldwide attention and is being researched by one of the leading cancer research centers in the world.
“The patents for this treatment were approved just a few days ago at the end of March,” said lead researcher Dr. Steven Curley, M.D., who is visiting Southwest Florida this week to raise awareness and funding for the work. “That is an important piece that validates John’s idea. John’s idea is a novel idea that no one has come up with before.”
The treatment detailed in the patents is intended to work by attaching microscopic gold spheres known as nanoparticles to lab-created, disease-fighting antibody cells, which then target receptors on certain cancer cells anywhere in the body. Once inside the cancer cells, the nanoparticles are heated by zapping the body with a harmless, concentrated field of low-frequency radio waves, which heat and kill the cancer cells, leaving surrounding cells unharmed.
Curley, who is working with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and seven other universities, is a professor of surgical oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, rated No. 1 in cancer treatment by U.S. News and World Report for four of the past six years. He is making his first appearance in the area in about a year. On Friday, he spoke to a group of Southwest Floridians in a meeting room at Fiddlesticks Country Club in Fort Myers.
Though previous estimates have placed the start of trials to begin in one to two years, Curley felt hesitant to make an estimate Friday, after expressing frustrations with the often tedious U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process.
“I’ve got a meeting the first week of may with the FDA,” Curley said. “They’ll tell me what additional stuff they want to get to clinical trials.”
Private events like the one Friday have been a necessity of the research. Kanzius was focused on protecting his research from venture capitalists and other private investors from the beginning, hence the patents. The research has been funded almost entirely through private donors from Erie, Pa., where Kanzius lived during the summer, and Sanibel and Captiva Islands. In all, about $4 million has been raised, said John Schubert, an island resident who has helped coral donors.
Though Curley was able to list particular items he is interested in purchasing to speed the research, such as a device he called an “inductive coupled plasma analyzer,” which would help measure the amount of nanoparticles reaching cancer cells, Schubert was more clear in how funding will help. Mainly, it will save lives, Schubert said.
“What we are doing here is buying time. Eventually, this research will get done,” Schubert said. “But 5,000 people get diagnosed with cancer in the United States every single business day. We are trying to cut this back from whatever it would have been, seven to nine years down to a total of five.”
Schubert said he has been attempting to move the fund-raising efforts off the islands, where much of the money has been raised, to greater Southwest Florida, including Naples. The Lee Memorial Health System has been identified as a location for phase two clinical trials, and Schubert said that fact should be important to area residents interested in the treatment’s promise.
“Since clinical treatments are scheduled for Southwest Florida, there seems to be a good reason to let folks in Southwest Florida be aware of this,” Schubert said.
In the past two years, the details of two experiments concerning the treatment have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
In the first, the researchers demonstrated how they could inject nanoparticles directly into cancerous tumors and kill the cells using the radiofrequency field. In the second, the researchers showed they could attach nanoparticles to antibodies, which then attached to colon and pancreatic cancer cells in a petri dish. The cells in the dish were killed when exposed to the field, said the report, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology.
Additional papers detailing work in targeting cancers in laboratory animals are expected in the coming weeks and months.
Curley sees the greatest promise initially in treating liver and pancreatic cancer, two of the most deadly, because they metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. A major component of the research has been identifying or creating antibodies capable of targeting different cancers. The list is extensive.
“There’s a lot of antibodies out there, or sometimes you have to develop your own,” Curley said of a research field known as proteomics. “It’s finding proteins or things on the surface of cells that are abnormal. We have a large group at M.D. Anderson that is trying to find proteins in a lot of different types of cancer.”
Among the list of cancers being researched are colon, lung, breast and many others, including the kind that took Kanzius’ life: Leukemia.
“I wish we could have gotten something stated a couple years earlier and had something ready for John,” said Schubert.
To donate, visit kanziuscancerresearch.com, or send a check made out to University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and referencing Targeted Radiowave Therapy Fund #80012561 to Steve Curley, M.D.; M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; Dept. of Surgical Oncology; Unit 444 - Office FC12.3058; 1400 Holcombe; Houston, TX 77030.