Innovative radiofrequency cancer treatment moving toward human trials

September 21, 2015

PITTSBURGH — A radiofrequency cancer treatment that Pittsburgh-area native John Kanzius invented prior to his death from leukemia in 2009 could be tested in human clinical trials next summer in Italy.

Steven A. Curley, chief of surgical oncology at the Baylor College of Medicine and research leader, said success there could lead to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving clinical trials in the United States.

The trials at the G. Pascale National Cancer Institute in Naples will involve surgeons, oncologists and clinicians whom Dr. Curley has been collaborating with for years. In a major step forward for the research, Dr. Curley recently was awarded a three-year $9 million grant from NeoTherma Oncology, the company established to make therapeutic medical devices based on the Kanzius technology.

"The first trials in pancreatic cancer will use chemotherapy and the radiofrequency field," he said. "It will involve only about 20 people and be used to show safety and proof of principle, but will not take more than nine to 12 months to complete." Pancreatic cancer is particularly resistant to the standard treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.

In an interesting twist, however, the trials won’t involve the main goal of Kanzius research: to target cancer cells with nanoparticles, then usE the noninvasive technology to heat them to temperatures deadly to the cancer but without significant impact on surrounding tissue. From mice to rabbits, that research has shown long-standing success in eliminating major cancers, including liver, pancreatic and breast. The treatment has yet to be tested on humans.

With upcoming trials, the research team hopes to show that the Kanzius technology, which noninvasively sends powerful radio waves through the body, much the way weaker signals enter your home and reach your radio, can change cancer-cell architecture in a way that makes them more vulnerable to existing cancer treatments.

Kanzius, who held a high school degree and a two-year technical degree but no medical training, lived in suburban Erie, Penn., where he co-owned the Jet Broadcasting Co. that operated a string of radio stations. While undergoing chemotherapy for b-cell leukemia diagnosed in 2002, he was unable to sleep when the idea struck him to spike only cancer cells with metallic nanoparticles then use certain radio frequencies to heat them to temperatures that kill the cancer. Dr. Curley has described Kanzius as being brilliant, innovative and visionary.

But a study the Curley team published in July 2014 in the journal Cancer found that the Kanzius radiofrequency treatment alone impaired the function of mitochondria — known as the powerhouses of the cells — in cancer cells. Then a year ago the team published a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health that found the radio-wave effects were specific to cancer cells, without adversely affecting other cells.

Another study the Curley team published in Scientific Reports in July showed that the Kanzius radiofrequency field increases blood supply to malignant tumors, which bolsters the potential to defeat resistance mechanisms of the cells and damage proteins involved in their DNA repair. Unable to repair themselves, the cancer cells die.

All of the studies suggest that radiofrequencies alone, even without a targeting mechanism, may work to stem cancer. The team already has determined that radiofrequency levels used to treat pigs were safe.

In August Dr. Curley’s team also published a study in PLOS One about electronic technology it developed to visualize biological interactions between radiofrequency exposure and cancer cells, representing an important tool for understanding how radio waves adversely affect cancer.

On June 1, NeoTherma Oncology acquired Kanzius’ patents for radiofrequency treatment technology and opened shop with the goal of ushering the technology to market as a new cancer treatment. Dr. Curley serves as NeoTherma’s chief scientific consultant.

"NeoTherma Oncology is a startup designed to support development and testing of the Kanzius technology," Dr. Curley said. "A big investment group formed it and is funding the push into human clinical trials." Michael Wandell, CEO of NeoTherma, did not respond to interview requests.

Mark S. Talamonti, chairman of the department of surgery at NorthShore University Health System and a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, said he’s been watching progress with Kanzius research for years with a personal interest in using nanoparticles to target and destroy the cancer with radio waves.

"You want to target the tumor and avoid healthy tissue and increase the efficacy and responsiveness of the tumor to the treatment," Dr. Talamonti said. "That is why nanoparticles are special, because they highly target the cancer cells, reduce impacts on good tissue and destroy cancer on a truly molecular level."



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services