It's a novel idea from an unlikely source, yet it has potential to help millions who suffer from the world's most feared disease.
Five years ago, John Kanzius had no inclination he'd ever attempt to invent a cancer treatment. And why would he? The Washington County native who has neither a medical nor college degree was enjoying a successful career operating radio and television stations.
But the Millcreek, Erie County, man sold his last radio station in November 2003 to focus on beating a rare form of leukemia, now kept under control via conventional chemotherapy.
That ordeal led him to develop a medical technology he's confident will be a user-friendly treatment, if not an outright cure, for most forms of cancer.
Kanzius, 60, has applied for four patents containing about 170 new intellectual properties that Dr. David A. Geller, co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Liver Cancer Center, described as a "potential revolutionary breakthrough."
In coming weeks, Geller will begin testing the technology on animals at UPMC.
The project began while Kanzius underwent three rounds of chemotherapy and witnessed its brutal side effects -- the masks, wigs, nausea, exhaustion and pain.
It sent his scientific mind spinning, inspiring him to do research which, in turn, spawned a fresh approach for killing cancer using what a good radio man knows best -- radio waves.
His method targets cancer cells so they, and only they, become vulnerable to deadly radio frequencies focused from outside the body, without affecting healthy tissue or causing side effects.
Kanzius' ideas would use physics rather than toxic biochemistry -- energy rather than medicine -- to kill cancer. His method of assault is a guided-missile rather than the carpet-bombing approach of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Federal funding is in place to test his ideas once his radio-wave equipment undergoes final testing. "We're on a fast track," Kanzius said.
He filed for three new patents Feb. 4, two of them with co-inventors Dr. William Steinbrink, Dr. Robert McDonald and Dr. Michael Keating. The new patents, he said, will turn his "Ford or Chevy into a Rolls Royce," raising his confidence his inventions can rid the body of all cancer cells.
For that reason, he said, he's confident his method could be a potential cure or a way to manage more difficult cancer, much as people manage diabetes. Multiple treatments would be possible because it does not engender harmful side effects.
And if Kanzius' theories hold true, the South Strabane native could become a heralded name in medical history. The John Kanzius' story would become one for the ages.
When Kanzius graduated from Trinity Area High School in 1962, his mother wanted him to be a doctor, but his father felt solid-state electronics would be the wiser choice in an age of transistor radios, color television sets and space-age computers.
So Kanzius landed an electronics degree at Allegheny Institute of Technology and took a job with RCA in Chartiers, where his uncanny scientific creativity became instantly useful.
RCA assigned him to help a newly hired Ph.D. fix a chronic flaw in RCA's color television transmitters which had spawned lawsuits against the company. The Ph.D. predicted it would take two years to solve the problem.
But before the Ph.D. arrived at the plant, Kanzius solved the problems in a half hour with nothing more than hardware at hand. The Ph.D. no longer was needed.
An ecstatic RCA administrator promoted Kanzius to troubleshooter, and Kanzius traveled the nation. In time, he began building radio and television stations. He developed expertise in broadcasting technology and the invisible powers of radio frequencies.
In 1966, Kanzius landed a position with Jet Broadcasting Co. in Erie, becoming a partner in 1982, then president a year later. With Jet, he operated a string of radio stations, a Fox television station in San Antonio and an ABC television affiliate in Erie.
He emerged as a pioneer in television programing with the longest airing medical show in the nation and an all-night television musical show long before the advent of MTV.
But he reluctantly retired in 2003 after being stricken the year before with rare B-cell leukemia.
War on cancer
While undergoing chemotherapy, Kanzius watched as people undergoing treatment fell into despair from its side effects.
Conventional treatments, which use toxins and radiation to kill cancer, cause patients to get sick, lose their hair and appetites, and, sometimes, their will to live.
Kanzius, who suffered the same effects, grew convinced by watching others that a safer procedure could be developed.
Unable to sleep while undergoing chemotherapy, Kanzius began spending late nights doing cancer research over the Internet. He focused on the difference between healthy and cancer cells and collected medical research that rose floor to ceiling in his suburban Erie home.
Then he began serious work on a potential treatment: Why not use radio waves to cook cancer cells? Already radio-wave ablation was used in cancer treatment, but it's an invasive procedure requiring a probe to touch the tumor. But it does nothing to kill metastasized cells -- cells that migrate elsewhere in the body.
With ideas taking shape, Kanzius cut up his wife Marianne's pie pans and built a radio-wave generator that trained powerful radio-wave frequencies in one direction. Then he used wieners and eventually steaks to test its effects on tissue.
But key to his invention was his method of using a cell enhancement that docks only with cancer cells to make them vulnerable to radio waves from outside the body. The method is designed to raise their temperature above a fatal threshold of 106.3 degrees without affecting healthy cells or producing side effects.
Kanzius said his technology would make it possible "to get rid of barbaric chemotherapy."
In August, Kanzius met with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who landed $200,000 to fund testing at UPMC, which is scheduled to begin within weeks. Geller, a renowned liver cancer specialist who introduced radio-wave ablation at UPMC, will oversee testing. If all goes well, he'll seek approval to begin human testing.
Geller said Kanzius had put "a tremendous amount of work" into his patents, which, he said, are full of creative ideas. "It's excellent for someone not in the medical field."
"I am pleased that Dr. David Geller and UPMC are using their resources and Geller's expertise to take this idea to the next level," Kanzius said.
Kanzius' friend, Bernard Wise, owner of Energy-Onix, an AM and FM radio transmitter manufacturer in Valatie, N.Y., built the radio-wave generator without charge to Kanzius. It's undergoing final testing before being shipped to UPMC.
Kanzius also formed Therm Med LLC, a corporate board of experts to help him write his new patents. The board includes Steinbrink, a Harvard graduate with expertise in medical technology; McDonald, a nuclear radiologist who directs the Patty Berg Center in Fort Myers, Fla.; Keating, a renowned leukemia expert, lecturer and researcher from the MB Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, along with a lawyer and businesspeople.
The company's goal, Kanzius said, is to test the inventions, then get them to market as soon as possible. "This is not a money-making deal for me. It's a humanitarian effort," he said.
His fourth round of chemotherapy last fall left Kanzius confined to his winter home in Sanibel, Fla., but it was not lost time. It gave him the opportunity to complete the new patents and left his body free of cancer.
Since filing for the first patent in May, he's experienced a whirlwind of interest and publicity, and brought a barrage of inquiries from anxious cancer patients seeking treatment. Geller said he'd even had offers from people with cancer-stricken pets to use them to test Kanzius' protocol.
WQLN, a public television station in Erie, did a half-hour broadcast, "Wavelengths," about Kanzius and his invention. CNN and ABC news, among others, also have contacted him.
Donald Trump did a story about Kanzius on his daily show, "The Real Deal," which aired on 400 radio stations nationwide. Afterward, Trump sent him a photograph with a message written in gold ink: "You're amazing. Congratulations. Best wishes, Donald Trump."
Actress Sharon Stone called Kanzius several times to see if his technology could be adapted to treat HIV-AIDS. Although it initially was not thought to be applicable, Kanzius said, his new medical board has convinced him it might be effective in treating HIV patients.
Recently, a person from Wall Street encouraged Kanzius to sell stock through an Initial Public Offering and raise enough money to do human testing outside the United States and get the technology to market faster. He has not made a decision on that idea.
Various biomedical corporations have offered to buy his inventions outright. But, for now, Kanzius isn't selling. He said he wanted it to be proven effective so he can usher it to market without delay.
"This totally blows my mind," he said of public interest in his inventions. "Everyone is wondering when this will be ready."
While it's on the fast track, he said, he knows first hand that that's a relative term.
"If you or a loved one are dying," he said, "this can't move fast enough."
David Templeton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-746-8652.