Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality. -Jonas Salk, inventor of the first Polio vaccine.
Cancer is non-partisan.
It doesn’t care whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice; it doesn’t care what you think about tax rates; and it certainly doesn’t care whom you vote for.
That’s why it strikes me as odd that some people seem to have an issue with my attendance at an upcoming educational conference hosted by a non-profit group that is working on the world’s most promising cancer treatment.
It’s pretty incredible that some people are so blinded by their political ideology that they can’t even see how small and petty they’ve become. Here’s a simple formula to help them: Life > Voting records. Every time; no exceptions. In fact, there is probably not a political issue that Keith Olbermann or Bill Maher and I see eye-to-eye on, but if either of them were supporting research related to cancer or ALS or diabetes or Alzheimer’s—or any other life-altering disease—I would be happy to stand by their side.
I learned a long time ago that it’s not worth trying to change the people who think this way. It’s better to leave the small problems to the small-minded and instead focus on our dreams. Like, for example, curing cancer.
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the group that is hosting me at this conference, a group that, I believe (even though they will never say it themselves), is trying to cure cancer, not just treat it.
It all started when John Kanzius, a former radio engineer, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2002. He began to receive treatment, including chemotherapy, and was shocked by its brutality. The hair loss, the fatigue, the nausea, the crippling numbness and nerve damage.
He was also shocked by the faces of the children around him. Kids of all ages bravely receiving treatment for a disease they never asked for. Bald heads, pale faces—hope and courage overcome by poison infused into tiny veins.
Week after week John Kanzius took all of this in and thought to himself: There has got to be a better way.
But there wasn’t.
Chemotherapy, as many cancer patients already know, is a double-edged sword. These toxic chemicals are the only thing keeping many people alive, yet they are also the only thing making them wish they were dead. The irony of most cancers, especially at their early stages, is that the disease itself often causes people no pain or quality of life issues. Instead, it’s the poison we use to treat them that makes most patients miserable.
There has got to be a better way.
John Kanzius didn’t know anything about cancer. Or chemotherapy. Or medical research. But he did know about something else: radio waves. He remembered back to the first time he’d climbed a radio tower. His companion had warned him to take off his watch and leave his keys in the car. Why? Because radio waves, while harmless to the human body, would heat metal almost instantly.
Now, years later, sitting in a chemo chair with an IV dripping poison into his veins, Kanzius thought back to that strange quirk of nature. If radio waves could heat metal while leaving the rest of the body untouched, then perhaps they could also kill malignant cells while leaving the healthy ones untouched.
And so he began to experiment. He set up a transmitter in his garage using a couple of his wife's pie pans, stuck a metal probe into a raw hotdog, and blasted it with radio waves. The metal probe got warm; hot enough to start to cook the hotdog next to it, while the remainder stayed cold.
A big idea was born. A better way.
As John’s disease progressed he eventually began to receive care at M.D. Anderson in Houston, one of the world’s premier cancer centers. He explained his radio wave concept to his oncologist, who in turn introduced him to Dr. Steven Curley, who was, well, skeptical. But the more John talked about the science behind his idea, the more Dr. Curley came to believe that the logic was sound. The doctor eventually made a solemn promise to John: no matter what happened, he would see the idea through to human trials.
John Kanzius died in 2009, but his dream never has.
Today, 23 doctors, researchers and chemists staff a lab dedicated to research of the Kanzius Noninvasive Radiowave Cancer Treatment at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Five more are at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It’s cutting edge technology, and it’s all funded by a tiny little non-profit based in Erie, Pennsylvania called the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation (KCRF).
Three new radio wave generating machines have recently been delivered to Dr. Curley’s team. These are far more advanced that the earlier versions and have tables that can support up to 800 pounds—more than enough for human trials. The early test results, using these machines and targeted nanoparticles, are beyond promising, but there is still a long way to go. And they need our help.
If you believe that real innovation (Dr. Curley won a Tribeca Film Festival Disruptive Innovation Award earlier this year) should be encouraged, then I ask you to join me in helping to push this technology forward. You can do that by making a donation to the Kanzius Foundation, or, even better, by joining me for lunch at their first national FACES conference in Erie, PA on Saturday, October 27. Dr. Curley, along with other Kanzius researchers, will also be there and will provide the latest research updates.
It’s easy to sit back and complain about chemotherapy, about how cancer has robbed so many of their hopes and dreams, about how it’s left so many children without parents and parents without children.
It’s a lot harder to do something to change all that.
I don’t know if radio waves are the answer. I don’t know if they’ll try this on humans one day and realize that it’s a complete failure. But I do know two things: First, if this idea fails, someone will pick up the pieces, make a slight course correction, and take the next big step. And second, I want to be a part of it. I want to help make cancer history.
The Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.