November 6, 2007
"John Kanzius, sorely weakened by leukemia treatments, drew on his lifetime of working with radio waves to devise a machine that targets cancer cells."
By Erika Hayasaki
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 2, 2007
ERIE, PA. — When doctors told John Kanzius he had nine months to live, he quietly thanked God for his blessings and prepared to die.
Then 58, he had lived a good life, with a loving wife, two successful adult daughters and a gratifying career.
Now he had leukemia and was ready to accept his fate, but the visits to the cancer ward shook him. Faces haunted him, the bald and bandaged heads, bodies slumped in wheelchairs, and children who could not play.
Like him, they had endured chemotherapy treatments that caused their weight to plummet, hands to shake, bodies to weaken, and immune systems to break down to the point that the slightest germ could be deadly. Kanzius knew their agony. He believed if cancer didn't kill him first, the treatments surely would.
He thought there had to be a more humane way to treat cancer.
Kanzius did not have a medical background, not even a bachelor's degree, but he knew radios. He had built and fixed them since he was a child, collecting transmitters, transceivers, antennas and amplifiers, earning an amateur radio operator license. Kanzius knew how to send radio wave signals around the world. If he could transmit them into cancer cells, he wondered, could he then direct the radio waves to destroy tumors, while leaving healthy cells intact?
Awake in bed one night in 2003, as the clock ticked past 2, Kanzius pulled himself from beneath the covers, leaving his sleeping wife, Marianne. He staggered down a flight of stairs, grabbed some copper wires, boxes, antennas and Marianne's pie pans, and began building a machine.
For months, Kanzius tinkered, using the pie pans to create an electronic circuit, often waking Marianne with his clanging. By day, he sent her out with supply lists: mineral mixtures, metals, wires.
His early-morning experiments would lead him to one of the nation's top cancer researcher centers, and earn the support of a Nobel Prize winner.
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