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Kanzius Machine: A Cancer Cure?
April 15, 2008 6:32 AM   Subscribe

The Kanzius Machine: A Cancer Cure? 60 minutes (12:38) investigates an amateurs garage technology that some are saying "in 20 years of research this is the most exciting thing that I’ve encountered" and one Nobel Prize winner said it "will change medicine forever." The nanotechnology-based cancer therapy without side effects is nearing trials.
posted by stbalbach (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it funny that the first thing I thought of was Primer?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:37 AM on April 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


From what I've heard, there is very little space from the circulatory system to the cancer cells, and this means that diffusive transport is quite difficult. This is the major problem currently facing cancer treatment. Thus, even antibody tagging, etc., will not kill all of the cancer, because these nanoparticles cannot reach the entire cancer.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:42 AM on April 15, 2008


John Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation.
posted by ericb at 6:45 AM on April 15, 2008


That's pretty genius. How do they get the nanoparticles into the right cells? Also, why use gold? It wouldn't be too awesome to cure cancer at the price of heavy metal poisoning.
posted by DU at 6:47 AM on April 15, 2008


Thus, even antibody tagging, etc., will not kill all of the cancer, because these nanoparticles cannot reach the entire cancer.

But will it kill enough of it that more toxic treatment can be given effectively at a lower level those reducing side effects or death from chemo? Or, will it kill enough that surgery to remove the remaining cancerous tissue is less risky and has a higher chance of success?
posted by spicynuts at 6:49 AM on April 15, 2008


They probably use gold because gold is purestrain and was created in the big bang. I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Ron Paul was ultimately behind this.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:49 AM on April 15, 2008


There's a lot of targeted drug delivery going on for cancer -- for example, liposomes which may bind to the cancer site and release chemo drugs (by releasing the drugs locally, you don't need as much, so there should be fewer side effects). The problem there, again, is difficulty in targeting cancer cells. If you're talking about treating tumors with heat, this is also already being done. (For example: Hyperthermia and Cancer If your targeting is not going to get to most of the cancer cells, and you're only heating part of the tumor, how is this going to be better than what we already have?
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:02 AM on April 15, 2008


Heh, it certainly sounds like the kind of thing that would have been come up with by a crazy internet huckster, and when you read how it supposedly works it makes sense that it could be a safer alternative to chemotherapy.

Essentially how it works is: You inject a tumor with metal particles, and then fire radio waves at the tumor. Unlike radiation therapy, which affects all cells, the radio waves only affect the area that's been injected, by heating it up. So it could damage tumors.


But would it work better then surgery to simply remove the tumor?

The hard part would be targeting free-floating cancerous cells from malignant tumors.
posted by delmoi at 7:03 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm confused as to the use of the metallic nanoparticles--if they've come up with something that will selectively stick to cancerous cells, why bother with the radio-wave cooking, when you can just use that vector to deliver some kind of cell-killing agent? I had always thought that the problem was finding some agent that would specifically (and correctly) target malignant cells, and that once that part was worked out, it would just be a matter of using said agent to deliver the right kind of drug.
posted by Mayor West at 7:05 AM on April 15, 2008


Er, sorry, the difficulty is not targeting cancer cells, it is getting things to the cancer cells, because the space between the cancer cells is too small. And there should have been a ) after my link.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:06 AM on April 15, 2008


No...more...Kanzius. Please, someone. Make it stop.
posted by fusinski at 7:07 AM on April 15, 2008


SCREW THAT! I can say from experience that nanotechnology has no place in the human body.

/me has to sort through his poo for an iPod shuffle.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:14 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


All these articles are focusing on the machine which seems misplaced to me. The difficulty is in getting the particles to the cancer cells. Scientists have been working on this for years. It isn't new. Some successes have occurred and hopefully they will get better at it. The concept of exciting the particles to cook cancer cells is also not unique to Kanzius. With all due respect to Mr. Kanzius who appears to have developed a fine machine, that is the easy part. Delivering RF energy is a well known art. Delivering nanoparticles to cancer cells, without having them attach to healthy cells and without having the body recognize them as foreign and clear them away before they can do their work, that is not such a well known art.
posted by caddis at 7:26 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


To Mayor West's question, many of the anti-cancer drugs are too large to fit within the nanoparticle. Also, with a drug you have to target every single cancer cell successfully (or basically so) whereas with heat if some cells didn't take in a nanoparticle the heat from the surrounding cells may be sufficient to cook them to death anyway.
posted by caddis at 7:29 AM on April 15, 2008


Kanzius RF therapy attaches microscopic nanoparticles to cancer cells and then "cooks" tumors inside the body with harmless radio waves.

Not so "harmless" if those nanoparticles attach themselves to healthy cells.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:45 AM on April 15, 2008


Whenever you hear about someone proposing some targeted therapy, remember this:

The problem is finding cancer-seeking molecules that are attracted to cancer cells but leave healthy cells alone.
(from the Wired link)

This is ever the case. I was in a lab in 1988 that was trying to find ways of targeting malignant cells based on the glycoconjugates expressed on their surfaces. In preclinical studies, these glycoconjugates were excellent targets for recognition by cytotoxic compounds, because certain carbohydrate moieties were preferentially expressed by malignant cells; yet these same moieties are also expressed on normal cells, albeit in smaller amounts. The selecting agents we were using (lectins, including the infamous poison ricin) were toxic enough that even a few molecules recognized and bound could spell death to a healthy cell. It's very tricky to capitalize on these recognition molecules, because almost all of them appear on or in healthy cells.
posted by Mister_A at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


Mayor West, they do have drugs out there that target only malignant cells (called TMT's, Targeted Molecular Therapy) by blocking their blood supply. But the problem with those drugs (like Sutent, Nexavar, and Torisel) are the side effects. What this is looking to do is kill cancer cells without any side effects at all, making it tolerable even for the very sick. There are times when surgery to remove tumors is just too risky, either due to the patient's health or the location of the tumor, and the possiblilty of killing the tumor from the inside out with no other effect on the patient's health would be a blessing.

Blazecock, cancer cells send out signals to draw blood vessels toward them so they can get nutrients and grow - healthy cells only use those same signals occasionally. That's why it's possible to target just malignant cells and leave healthy cells alone.
posted by annieb at 8:12 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is what annoys me about scientific reporting in the media. It sounds wonderful and fantastic until you realize it's hitting the same wall every cancer treatment is: taking out all of the cancer cells while doing minimal damage to healthy tissue. The person who cures cancer is not going to be the guy who figures out how to deliver toxic material to cells, we have many techniques for that. The guy who cures cancer is going to be the guy who delivers it to the right cells.


And also, this whole article's kind of bullshit. They've had a similar technique injecting boron into the body then delivering harmless radiation to excite the boron only in the area of the tumor which results in toxic radiation being emitted. But then they hit the wall of "how do we efficiently deliver the boron only to the tumor". This guy just used a different system.
posted by slapshot57 at 8:12 AM on April 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was in the middle of writing a post about this, but the angle I was going to take was that this story highlights just how inept is press coverage of science. The Wired story is passable, but the 60 minutes story is moronic - Leslie Stahl should be forced to take a 6th grade science class, because she is beyond stupid.

First, using radio waves to cook things is not new. Though he uses a different RF generator and different frequencies, this guy has basically built a microwave. And we all know that metal get hotter a lot faster in the microwave than anything else. We also know that hte military is testing weapon that induces pain with radio waves.

Here is Kanzius's patent application, which describes exactly what the machine is and what it's doing.

The "nanoparticles" (nano=science!) are made of "metal or carbon", but the application (para. 54) describes that metal sulfates and salts could be used too. Nanoparticles coated in metal are not new either. In other words, they are nothing more than microscopic pieces of metal, metal compounds, or metal ions small enough to pass through the blood stream.

The twist is that if you can attach a protein that targets only cancer to the nanoparticle, then you can stick the nanoparticle to the cancer cell and not anything else. The problem is that no such silver bullet exists yet. As the artcile notes, there are a lot of good candidates, but all of the candidates attach themselves to healthy cells as well as cancer cells.

The reason this invention is stupid is because if they discover such a 100% precise cancer targeting molecule, that in itself would immediately result in a cancer cure. They have lots of drugs that will kill cancer cells, but those drugs also kill all the other cells too. IF you find the targeting molecule, the job is done.

The problem with putting a human body into a microwave is that your body is full of metal ions. There's a gigantic iron atom sitting in the center of every hemoglobin molecule. Sodium ions are a vital component of cell operation. The article describes tests on human and animal cells, but the problem is that radio waves lose most of their power trying to penetrate a mass to any appreciable depth. (see paragraph 54). To overcome this, he has to raise the frequency and the power.

One huge problem is that hemoglobin and all other proteins containing metal atoms will heat up as well. I haven't seen the 2007 paper, but my guess is that they tested only cells on a dish or in a beaker, not deep within a mass the size of the human body.

But my big problem with this is that Kanzius is a known quack. He claimed that in testing his cancer machine, he discovered it could "burn salt water", and that it would create a new source of energy. In that story, "Professor Emeritus, Rustum Roy, at the Penn State University Materials Lab...a leading expert on the science of water" said it was "the biggest discovery in 100 years in water research".

Would you like me to explain how it works? He poured salt water into a tube. It's salt water. Which is an electrical conductor. When you expose a conductor to an RF field, a current is induced in the conductor. This is what an antenna is. This is why antennae are made of metal. The salt water antenna conducts a current which electrolyzes the water, separating the hydrogen and the oxygen, releasing them as gases. Which can be lit. Anyone who knows how electrolysis works could have told you this is what was happening. So the machine doesn't simply heat the metal ion, it induces a current in the conducting medium. But any physics student familiar with ampere's law and maxwell's equations knows that an EM field induces a current in a conductor in that field. But we are told that this is a new discovery, when it is nothing of the kind.

Furthermore, investigating this previous story about Kanzius would lead a reasonable person to ask, if this is what happens in the salt water in a test tube, what happens to the salt water in a patients body when you crank this thing up to the high frequencies and powers needed to penetrate a human body? Is there a risk of electrolyzing the water in the cancer tissue? What happens when the H2 and O2 gases are ignited by the hot nanoparticle?

but we get no good questions, because no one understands science. I'll leave you with this anecdote.

The man who invented the microwave oven was a radar engineer. One day he was fiddling around inside the radar while it was on (these things were enormous back then, which is the 40's) when he discovered that a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. That was how he discovered that microwaves could cook food. This guy discovered the walk in microwave 50 years before Kanzius.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:52 AM on April 15, 2008 [21 favorites]


That's pretty genius. How do they get the nanoparticles into the right cells? Also, why use gold? It wouldn't be too awesome to cure cancer at the price of heavy metal poisoning.
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on April 15


Gold is inert, and reacts with almost nothing. And it reacts with absolutely nothing in the body (i.e. it is impervious to body chemistry). Gold is even approved for use as a decorative food additive. You can eat it and drink it. It's harmless.

And lots of heavy metals are vital to your body, namely, iron.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2008


Gold is certainly not nonreactive in the body; gold chloride injections were used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis until we found better agents.

This technology is interesting, but it will not work until the ability to deliver (X) only to cancer cells and not to healthy cells is developed. When that's possible, a whole slew of therapies will become feasible.

This article is sort of like a guy saying, "I built a new car that will someday win the Dakar rally. It's got GPS nav, monster tires, and leather seats and it's really comfortable." The article fails to point out that the car lacks an engine and the car builder doesn't know how to build one.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:03 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The use of metallic nanospheres allows you to target locations smaller than the wavelength of the excitation mechanism. This means that you can use harmless radiation to perform very localized hot-spots. There are very similar ideas involving using nanospheres for lithography.
posted by ozomatli at 9:18 AM on April 15, 2008


At this point I would really like to do the whole Kirk/Khan shout, only with Kanzius instead of Khan, but I guess that theme is pretty worn out by now. Dang.
posted by aramaic at 9:20 AM on April 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to stress while the person may be a quack, the attachment of "nano" to this problem is not simply window dressing or techno-babble. This is in a very fundamental way different from cooking metal in the microwave. It is more akin to putting a potato in the microwave and heating only a very specific location in the potato. This is possible because of the coherent oscillations of the nanosphere and the resulting constructive (or destructive) interference of the resultant radiation along specific points in the system. In fact the whole system can be understood as a driven damped series of oscillators. In this case the oscillators are electric dipole moments and the combination of the external driving field and the resultant radiation from the oscillating dipoles are the driving forces. Damping comes from losses due to ohmic heating and radiation damping.

This situation is more analogous to an antenna than a microwave oven.
posted by ozomatli at 9:28 AM on April 15, 2008


Pastabagel writes: But my big problem with this is that Kanzius is a known quack. He claimed that in testing his cancer machine, he discovered it could "burn salt water", and that it would create a new source of energy. In that story, "Professor Emeritus, Rustum Roy, at the Penn State University Materials Lab...a leading expert on the science of water" said it was "the biggest discovery in 100 years in water research".

Oh, this is him? I thought I recognized the name from somewhere. Yeah, fuck this guy... the CBS News story set off my pseudo-science radar like crazy (breathless descriptions of "space age nanoparticles" never bode well), but I figured Wired wouldn't run with a story by somebody who's off the reservation.

annieb, thanks for the clarification... maybe they'll find the right kind of reactive particle some day, but it doesn't really look like this is that day.
posted by Mayor West at 9:52 AM on April 15, 2008


space age nanoparticles

Wow, then I guess this is a fantastic repurposing of 1960s technology.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2008


This reminds me of an old Steve Martin bit. For you youngsters, Steve Martin is a gray-haired fella who used to be funny.

Anyway, he told the story of how to make a million dollars tax free. "First," he began earnestly, "you get a million dollars..."

This story and other like it in the lay press remind me of that bit.
posted by Mister_A at 10:38 AM on April 15, 2008


I hear you can use his device to make your car run on water too.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:48 AM on April 15, 2008


Mister_A : In preclinical studies, these glycoconjugates were excellent targets for recognition by cytotoxic compounds, because certain carbohydrate moieties were preferentially expressed by malignant cells; yet these same moieties are also expressed on normal cells, albeit in smaller amounts.

Mister_A is way smarter than I am.

posted by quin at 11:04 AM on April 15, 2008


Blazecock, cancer cells send out signals to draw blood vessels toward them so they can get nutrients and grow - healthy cells only use those same signals occasionally. That's why it's possible to target just malignant cells and leave healthy cells alone.

Oh, I know the theory. In practice, however, this rarely works as advertised, either because the treatment "works" where it shouldn't, or there is some unforeseen complication from applying the treatment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:07 AM on April 15, 2008


Now that we've outed all of the cancer researchers.
posted by mecran01 at 12:38 PM on April 15, 2008


*goes to sit in the dunce corner with quin*
posted by bettafish at 12:47 PM on April 15, 2008


The man who invented the microwave oven was a radar engineer. One day he was fiddling around inside the radar while it was on (these things were enormous back then, which is the 40's) when he discovered that a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. That was how he discovered that microwaves could cook food. This guy discovered the walk in microwave 50 years before Kanzius.

Sounds like he was just having a good day. I could walk around with a chocolate bar in my pocket too, and guess what would happen to it after a pretty short time?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:13 PM on April 15, 2008


Meh, I'm still betting on oncolytic viruses.
posted by greatgefilte at 2:47 PM on April 15, 2008


but the 60 minutes story is moronic ...

I got a sudden flashback to (I think) Steve Kroft's story in the late 90s on why the world would end because of Y2K. Sounds like 60 Minutes should get some science advisers on staff...
posted by storybored at 8:40 PM on April 15, 2008


Sounds like 60 Minutes should get some science advisers on staff...

Does Iron Man count? (warning, YTMND, audio)
posted by zippy at 12:00 AM on April 16, 2008


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