The Kanzius Machine: A New Weapon against Cancer?

July 31, 2008 – 10:12 am

The irregular growth of cancer cells is apparent in this image of adenocarcinoma, which has been magnified 400 times.
The Kanzius machine is designed to kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue. Here, adenocarcinoma is shown at 400x magnification.

Earlier this year, the US television show 60 Minutes on the CBS network aired a report on John Kanzius, who has invented a device for treating cancer noninvasively. After the program hailed the invention as “one of the most promising breakthroughs in cancer research in years,” the story quickly spread throughout the blogosphere and, for a short while, “Kanzius machine” became one of the most common search terms on Google.

The enthusiasm for the topic is understandable. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn about a device that reportedly could wipe out cancer in the body with no side effects? But there are also other forces at work in the story’s popularity such as the tenacity and goodwill of the technology’s inventor. A cancer patient himself, Kanzius had first-hand experience with the sickening effects of chemotherapy. But, as the 60 Minutes broadcast explained, he wasn’t motivated to develop the device by his own condition, but by “looking into the hollow eyes of sick children on the cancer ward” at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX, USA). Without scientific training or even a degree from a university, Kanzius drew on his experience as a radio technician to develop a series of prototypes for a radio-frequency generator designed to selectively kill cancer cells with the help of nanoparticles.

The idea behind the device is rather simple: The tumor is injected with a compound containing gold or carbon nanoparticles, the site is exposed to high-frequency radio waves, which causes the temperature of the injected material to rise, eventually killing the cancer cells. Assuming that the surrounding tissue is free of the injected nanoparticles, it will spared during the treatment. Much, it seems, depends on the nanoparticles’ ability to selectively target cancer cells in the body.

It remains to be seen how effective the Kanzius machine will be in humans. The safety of high-frequency radio waves and nanoparticles has been questioned by some. And, since CBS aired the story, Kanzius and 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl have been criticized for advancing unscientific claims. When reviewed on healthnewsreview.org, the 60 Minutes broadcast received almost the lowest possible rating. Some researchers, however, are taking the Kanzius machine seriously. Steven Curley, M.D., a professor of surgical oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has announced that the results of his research on the technology have been positive. Similar research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) also has been promising; however, human trials of the cancer treatment method are still about four years away.
Below is a video clip of the 60 Minutes broadcast from CBS. It is preceded by short advertisement.

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