60 Minutes tonight had a story about John Kanzius, who claims to have invented a cure for all cancers. Basically, by injecting nanoparticles with metallic characteristics into cancerous areas, he bombards living tissue with radio waves, which heat up the desired area, killing cancer cells, but leaving non-cancerous areas unaffected.
Sounds good to me, but IANAD. I noticed that Kanzius’ name appears associated with a scheme to make hydrogen from water, maybe not a scam, but possibly an inefficient method at best.
I noted that 60 Minutes had several experts gushing over the idea, but no one to oppose it.
So – does anyone have any comments to add from far greater experience and knowledge than I?
Presumably he’s saying it’s the nanoparticles (injected into the cancerous tissue) that are reacting to the radio waves. But how could you be sure that there are nanoparticles in all the cancerous tissue and none of the rest? Skeptical here too (without having seen the program.)
The most promising thing I’ve read recently is the discovery that white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice cure seemingly all kinds of cancers in non-resistant mice; the hope is that upon learning the exact mechanism by which this works, it might be possible to extend this cure to humans. This is still a ways away from human trial, though.
As for Kanzius, the first I heard of him was the claim that he’d found a way to ‘burn salt water’, essentially using some form of radio-electrolysis to free hydrogen, which he then lit; I heard it hailed as a major discovery, but was pretty sure that there really isn’t more utility in this thing than there is in ordinary electrolysis, since the RF transmitter would consume more energy than is possible to generate via the burning of the freed hydrogen – early reports, to the best of my recollection, didn’t address this at all, instead giving off some kind of perpetuum mobile feel, but now it seems that it’s been Kanzius’ stance all along that his discovery was merely ‘thought provoking’, not something actually useful for energy generation, as per the wiki article. That may, of course, have been so, it wouldn’t be the first time the media has somewhat exaggerated a researcher’s claims.
Incidentally, the apparatus used to burn the salt water is the same one now used to cure cancer, which does seem a bit miraculous for one single appliance, but so far, trials on rabbits have proven rather promising, so hey, if it works, I’m not the one to cry quack. But it’s a bit early to claim this as a cure for cancer, there are still lots of clinical tests to do, and we can only hope that it turns out as promising as it seems.
There are quite a number of targeted cancer therapy agents in clinical trial - but they are not (yet) the miracle drugs we would hope them to be. The general principle of these therapeutic agents is to couple cell-killing agents to antibody fragments that recognize “tumor-specific” cell surface proteins and hopefully deliver the cell-killing agents to these cells. Carbon nanotubes may or may not succeed to join the wide array of cell-killing agents used in therapeutic agents of this kind.
However, these drugs have to be carefully matched to the cancer, as there is no common marker for all tumor cells, and the tumor targeting efficiency is not yet as good as we would like it to be. While some of these drugs show great promise against some form of cancer, they are not miracle drugs.
Just speculating here from a non-doctor’s viewpoint, but if it is possible to define where cancer begins and healty tissue ends enough to remove it surgically, it might be possible to inject nanoparticles into the same defined area. Then it would be the defined area that would heat up, taking the cancerous cells with it.
I had the show on while I was reading, so I kind of heard it. IIRC there was a proposal to attach a molecule to gold, which would be injected into the bloodstream. The receptors in the cancer cells would attract the molecule, this attaching the gold to it so it can be destroyed.
It’s the carrier molecule designed to be preferentially attracted to cancer cells. The gold serves as the atom which can be manipulated by radio-frequency.
Unfortunately, there is no one unique attribute of cancer cells that is not shared by at least some normal cells, so there’s always going to be uptake of the carrier molecule in non-cancerous tissue, resulting in collateral damage. Also, some cancer cells won’t take it up, and they’ll be spared.
I’m sadly out of date on current molecular oncology, so I won’t try to dissect the topic further.
I cannot put into a single post what Dr. Weinberg has put into a 760 page textbook, but I am relatively confident that there will never be a “cure for cancer.” To begin with, cancer is often treated as a monolithic entity by the lay-press, but really it’s an uncontrolled progression of the cell cycle and cell growth for hundreds of reasons. It’s like people speeding on the interstate; some are incorrigible speed demons, some really need to make a business meeting, some just didn’t realize how fast they were going, and some have a wife in the back-seat giving birth. No matter how many cops we hire, we can’t stop speeding without fundamentally altering the nature of the vehicles we drive (which some-times we want to go fast; like in the later example). Humans and other species have evolved to a state that occasionally degenerates into a cancerous form from time to time, and that’s really unavoidable. The best we can do is try to regulate it or treat it as closely as we can.
Compared to 50 years ago, the aggregate of cancer treatments today verge on miraculous, but it’s been a difficult slog of incremental improvement. For some hopeful stories about some of the most impressive leaps, research the history of pediatric oncology or a recent drug like Gleevec.
That said, it seems like this persons research is generally on the level. I don’t know where he’s claimed “a cure for cancer” rather than just another treatment option. If he has, he’s vastly overstepping, but I won’t accuse him of it because I haven’t seen him do it. There’s nothing radical about the idea of using all parts of the EM spectrum, from ionizing traditional “radiation therapy” to “heat therapy,” but it seems like he’ making some potential advances in the methods. The journals he and his colleagues from UPMC have published in are legitimate ones. It could be an important component of future treatment, but unfortunately the history of cancer research suggests there is a regrettably large ratio of hopeful but ultimately failed treatments to ultimately successful treatments.
Well, cancerous cells are different than non-cancerous cells (partly because they’re always reproducing). Among the changes are changes to the cell membrane (which is the outside of the cell…it’s the layer of lipids and proteins that surrounds the cell and holds it together). So you try to design a molecule that will bind with the proteins on the cell membrane of a cancerous cell and not with the proteins on the cell membrane of a non-cancerous cell.
Yes, but most of these changes are quantitative in nature, not qualitative. A cancer cell may have several hundred thousand copies of a particular protein on its surface, while normal cells throughout the body have between none and a few thousand, depending on the cell type. But in addition, all cells will take up bulk fluid by pinocytosis. Therefore, the targeting of a drug to the cancer cells is never absolute. We can achieve a selectivity of around 1:10’000 in cell culture, that is, it takes a 10’000-times higher dose of the same compound to kill cells that don’t carry the tumor marker protein than to kill the tumor cells. It works ok in clinical trials when you can inject the drug directly into the tumor. But for a drug that can be injected into the bloodstream and that seeks out metastases throughout the body, we need even higher selectivity.
The problem is, you need to kill every last cell of the cancer, and you need to do so fast. Because, if some of the tumor cells survive the treatment, they are usually the cells that are most resistant to the treatment, and will grow to form tumors that are less sensitive to the drug. Since cancer cells tend to accumulate mutations, they can “evolve” to adjust to the treatment. With every new round of treatment you need, your chances of beating the disease decrease.
A tumor the size of a chickpea (1 gram) already contains around a billion cells, and you need to kill every single one of them. It is not enough to kill 99% or 99.9% or even 99.999%, but every single cell.
Targeting the drug to the cancer cells is an important step towards achieving the necessary discrimination between cancer cells and the most sensitive normal cells, but we will probably need a multi-stage approach to further increase the specificity. In addition, there is not one tumor marker present on all types of cancer, therefore different targeting moieties have to be found to address different types of cancer.
We are making progress, but it is a slow and tedious progress that is very unlikely to lead to one miracle drug, but rather to a wide spectrum of therapeutic options that have to be carefully matched to the specific patient.
Well being able to specifically target areas that are known to be cancerous is likely to cause a localized reaction. Thus it may kill non-cancerous cells but within a threshold of optimal acceptability that is much more refined than say, chemo which has a sort of scorched Earth policy. Hey, if you had cancer would you rather have a bit of burned healthy tissue around the cancer cells or would you rather have a ravaged immune system with chemicals that get stored in your fat cells and remain for years and years?
Sounds interesting, I hope he’s got some point. On the face of it it sounds pretty logical.
Treating cancer with heat is an old idea-it was tried back in the 1960’s-extended dessions in a hot sauna seemed to help. If you could direct microwave energy to cancerous cells (and kill them all) the idea ceratinly would work.
My guess is, you might wind up killing 99.99% of them-but that isn’t good enough.
Speaking of which: why doesn’t the bodies own immune system target cancer cells? if you could mark tumerous cells with some differnt DNA, your own immune system would wipe them out!
The problem is, our immune system comprises control mechanisms that prevent it from attacking our own body (autoimmune responses). Since tumor cells are body cells whose growth regulation mechanisms are defective, they offer little difference to the normal cell that would allow the immune system to distinguish them from normal cells. Or more likely - those potential tumor cells that carry mutations that make them recognizable as “not normal” are eliminated by the immune system before they become a problem. Only those that manage to evade the immune surveillance can propagate to become a tumor.