SANIBEL, Fla.- A local man's dream of curing cancer is one step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday night.
Part-time Sanibel resident John Kanzius came up with an innovative approach to treat the disease. Now, one of the nation's top cancer doctors is working with a machine that could end up being a major breakthrough.
"I promised him in one of the very dark days of his illness, that if this has the potential to help people, I would do everything in my power to see it through," said Marianne Kanzius.
She is keeping her word, pushing to make her husband's dream of finding a cure for cancer a reality.
WINK News anchor Jennifer Stacy first met part-time Sanibel resident John Kazius in 2007. He was battling leukemia and frustrated by available cancer treatments.
"During my second round of chemo I saw young couples going through the same wrenching side effects of chemotherapy as I was," Kanzius said during an interview with Stacy. "I thought there has to be a better way to treat cancer."
Sick from chemo one night, the former TV and radio station engineer got an idea to harness radio waves to kill cancer cells.
Kanzius got out of bed, went to the garage, and went to work building a radio wave machine using his wife's pots and pans and a ham radio. Despite no medical background or college degree, Kanzius ultimately invented a prototype for a machine now located at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Dr. Steven Curley now leads a team of 15 researchers at MD Anderson, devoted to making John Kanzius' dream a reality.
"In theory, it can be used for almost any kind of cancer you can name," explained Dr. Curley.
Researchers are able to attach antibodies to metal nanoparticles so they actually hunt down cancer cells. Radio waves then heat up the particles and zap the cancer, leaving healthy cells intact. There are no known side effects, and the patient would feel nothing.
So far, Dr. Curley's team has been successful in pancreas and liver cancer tumors. They are monumental breakthroughs in the testing of the therapy, that would please John Kanzius.
"The only thing he would not like is he would like to see it done faster," said Marianne Kanzius. "My husband, he never had anything done fast enough, quick enough."
Sadly, the cure didn't come fast enough for the man who gave hope to so many. Kanzius lost his battle with leaukemia in 2009.
"A month before his death, John was hospitalized here at MD Anderson," said Dr. Curley. "He said, 'I just want to know it will go on.' And I said 'John, you have my assurance that I'm going to get this to human trials.' And as a point of honor, I'm going to get this to human trials. It's a matter of my word to the man, it's a sign of my respect for him."
A brand new machine at MD Anderson will help Dr. Curley keep that promise. The machine streamlines the radio wave treatment and allows testing on larger animals, such as a pig, and ultimately on humans.
"This table can hold 800 pounds, so we can obviously treat a human on there," explained Dr. Curley.
Both Dr. Curley and Marianne Kanzius are careful to stress that more testing needs to be done, but both remain just as optimistic as John Kanzius was.
"We've got a lot of excellent data," explained Dr. Curley. "John started a company with this, and that company is currently in discussions with the FDA. They will have to formally apply for permission with the FDA to start human trials. I personally believe it'll be another 2-3 years of testing."
Those human trials will likely be close to home, here in Southwest Florida.
"John had promised that, in the event, when we go to human trials, he would have human trials here in Southwest Florida, at Lee Memorial," said Marianne Kanzius. "I'd like to believe that this could be the answer to a lot of people's prayers."
The Kanzius family is very grateful to the local community here in Southwest Florida for their continued support in the effort to see John Kanzius' dream of a cure for cancer become a reality, but they need more help. A great deal of the research is funded through private donations. If you would like to help, click on the link to the John Kanzius Research Foundation's web site.