In honor of my mom’s 86th b-day (today), I bring you a story she has been telling me – and I’ve resisted hearing – for a few years now. It started about how this local guy, local being Erie, Pa, undergoing chemo for his own leukemia had used a ham radio and his wife’s pie pans to burn salt water and in the process figured out how to cure cancer. In hot dogs, anyway.
Yeah, sure, mom. No, really, she would persist, harmless radio waves kill the cancer cells but don’t cause any pain to the patient.
Okaaay. Some major woo for Respectful Insolence certainly. I’d feed the cats, let the dogs out, sort through the mail, uh-humming away. She kept updating me about this radio wave cancer cure even as I left a job, city, and spouse behind to start anew in a job and city closer to her. I wasn’t paying attention.
Mom, it takes years and years for this sort of research to progress to human trials – and lots of grant money. He’s not even a faculty member anywhere (shoot, he doesn’t have a college degree of any sort). Believe me, mom, I *know* how long this sort of work takes to progress from cells to animals to people and how hard it is to get funding for this sort of high-risk speculative research.
Except, of course mom, being mom, is right, and I’m the smartypants brat very much in the wrong. Happy Birthday, Mom!
John Kanzius has indeed developed a radio wave generator that sufficiently heats up gold nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes attached to antibodies or other molecules that target specific receptors to kill cancer cells without harming surrounding cells. As simple and as obvious as pouring clumping kitty litter on hemorrhaging battlefield wounds. CBS’s 60 Minutes packages the whole incredible story nicely (including the donation of carbon nanoparticles from the dying Nobel Laureate who discovered them, Rick Smalley), so I won’t repeat it here.
Steven Curley, MD, professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Surgical Oncology, has led the research, obtaining consistently positive results published in such no-account journals as, oh, Cancer (take a gander at the funders – no mention of NCI or any other NIH support).
The research is being conducted here at Baby It’s Cold Outside as well, where researchers have replicated the M.D. Anderson findings in an article just out in another throw-away rag, Surgery (again, NIH support conspicuously absent … but cool low-tech photo of Kanzius’s humble cancer killing machine).
Okay, everyone out there with nothing but a high school diploma whose first two journal articles have been published in Cancer and Surgery, raise your hand.
Recently, the health system affiliated with (but a distinct nonprofit entity from) BICO, which has an operating budget and workforce size that rivals small European nations, offered to cover every penny of development costs – tens of millions of dollars worth – in exchange for IP ownership. Smart Mr. Kanzius said no thanks. (said medical center goliath recently arranged to “affiliate” with the Erie Regional Cancer Center)
Instead, Senator Bob Casey sent a letter to US DHHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, asking him to fund the project. Governor Ed Rendell is looking for state funding as well.
You all have Senators and Governors personally arranging funding for your research projects, right?
With limited time remaining (due to his own cancer – he’s hoping to see the first patient in treatment at least), Kanzius is now working “with the Rutkowski family at Industrial Sales and Manufacturing Inc., in Millcreek Township [Erie County], to build a larger radio-frequency device to use in large-animal and human testing.” I love it … but this *must* be killing GE, which has been the major employer/benefactor in Erie since 1911 … building locomotive engines.
The first Phase II clinical trials, expected to start within two years, will be led by the Regional Cancer Center built just down the street from the industrial slum (that actually looks even worse 28 years later) where I spent my formative years living in a chemical fume-enhanced apartment over a failing sheet metal shop. This is a place where favorite local mottos used to include “Dreary Erie, the Mistake on the Lake” and “Erie: Gateway to Ohio!”
I therefore also pooh-poohed my mom when she would insist people were coming from all over the world to the Erie Regional Cancer Center. Mom, we have an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center where I am, so I know what sort of facility attracts patients from all over the world.
Well, I drive by the Regional Cancer Center almost every weekend when I’m up to see mom, and I will give it a nod of respect from now on. And I’ll definitely be pulling for them all that this is one of those rare pre-clinical success stories that changes lives in the clinic. Amusingly, Mom of course kept asking me to stop in there to see if they would hire me. Damn, who needs writedit slaving away at all hours when you’ve got federal and state funding effortlessly pouring in?
On the other hand, there must be something in the water in Erie that produces inventors. My late father had nothing more than a HS education but invented toys for Marx while still with us, including the Big Wheel, Marvel the Mustang, Rock-em-Sock-em-Robots, etc. (our family of 8 kids was his private test lab when I was little), and when he left us to start a new life on his own on the West Coast, he invented what I’m sure were remarkably innovative products for a string of biotech companies. Unfortunately, I never really found out about his second life, and I don’t recall much of his first life with us. His 87th birthday would have been yesterday. Happy Birthday, Dad (long since a part of the ecosystem off the San Diego coast).