New treatment is nearing trials, may be in practice within a few years

When it comes to cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation, harsh side effects ranging from mild, such as nausea, to severe, such as infertility or death often come with the territory.

Now a new therapy method is being tested which may replace these more caustic cures.  The new treatment is known as Kanzius RF Therapy, named after Pennsylvania inventor John Kanzius, a retired radio and TV engineer.  The method on a most basic level involves attaching nanoparticles to cancer cells and then blasting them with RF, effectively cooking the cancer cells.

In tests the new treatment has an amazing perfect record -- it killed 100 percent of cancerous cells, while leaving healthy cells untouched.  It is being tested at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  Dr. Steve Curley, the professor leading the testing in Houston states, "I don’t want to give people false hope, but this has the potential to treat a wide variety of cancers."

Chemotherapy and radiation's many harmful side effects are due to the fact that these methods kill healthy cells in addition to cancerous ones.  The Kanzius RF Therapy not only does not kill healthy cells, but it is noninvasive.  It uses either gold or carbon nanoparticles, which have a long history of medical use.

Gold nanoparticles have been a subject of much research since their invention in 1980.  The particles can pass through cell membranes and move through the blood stream, allowing researchers to use them to target certain cellular structures.  This behavior can also be useful for drug delivery.  There are still some unresolved questions on the safety of nanoparticles, due to the relative lack of information on health effects of long-term exposure.

Curley's team at M.D. Anderson coats the gold nanoparticles with proteins that bind to receptors on cancerous cells only.  This allows researchers to inject the nanoparticles into cancer cells, leaving normal cells untouched.  Dr. Christopher Gannon, assistant professor at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, who collaborated with M.D. Anderson explains, "We’re looking into gold because it is FDA-approved and has a track record of being tolerated in humans."

Once the cancer cells have been loaded with nanoparticles, a radio frequency generator is activated to cook the cancer cells.  Initial trials on animal and human cells showed that the cancer cells injected with the nanoparticles had a 100 percent kill rate, while no healthy cells were harmed.  A study in the November 2007 issue of the journal Cancer showed that the cancerous cells died within approximately 48 hours.

A separate study in the Journal of Nanobiotechnology in January 2008 similarly confirmed the test results.  Gannon states, "We know it has the potential to work well.  It’s just a matter of making the details work."

The biggest challenge is in finding proteins that will bond to cancerous cells and not bond to healthy cells.  Curley's team has found a molecule c225, which is FDA approved, and targets cancer cells.  Unfortunately c225 can also bond to some healthy cells.  Said Curley, "It will depend on the type of cancer and the targeting molecules attached to the nanoparticles."

The radio frequency generator used in the trials was invented by Kanzius after he went through chemotherapy for leukemia in 2003 and 2004.  Kanzius declined to comment on his work, and has an exclusive media deal with CBS News, and will be appearing on a special edition of 60 Minutes this Sunday.  Gannon lauds Kanzius as a pioneer, stating, "His device helped inspire us to create the targeted nanoparticles to make it a fully functional clinical device."

Kanzius is working to enlarge his prototype RF generator to a full-scale model the size of a CT-scanner, big enough to fit a human inside.  This should eventually allow for clinical trials.

All those working on the project are very optimistic about its revolutionary nature.  Curley, who describes himself as the "ultimate skeptic" states, "The best-case scenario is that we would be able to clinical trials within three years."

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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