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MAKING WAVES OpEd for March 2012

March 13, 2012

03/14/12 The Punctuation of Life

Mark A. Neidig, Sr.

I should know better than to go to a show on the “Great White Way” that is about cancer.  But, while I was in New York City last week, I had the opportunity to attend a limited engagement of Margaret Edson’s Off-Broadway production of W;t.  Yes, I spelled “wit” as the playwright intended.  Just as punctuation has a profound effect on how a sentence reads; the same is true of a particular cancer treatment and how it affects a patient’s response.

The story line follows Dr. Vivian Bearing, an unmarried college English professor who is dying of ovarian cancer.   She has a heartless and unsympathetic physician who recommends a clinical trial for her treatment – a harsh chemotherapy drug with eight “maximum strength” treatments.  The result was several months of debilitating sickness and end of life anxiety. At the end of the play she dies; not of her cancer, but rather from the harsh effects of the chemotherapy.

With tears in my eyes, I sat in my seat stunned.  I couldn’t help but think how this story was the same as that of John Kanzius.  And yet, he endured over thirty-five rigorous treatments.  Then I envisioned the countless others around the world that experience the same gruesome treatments day in and day out.

The harsh side effects are not exclusive to clinical trials. No wonder John used to say “there has to be a better way!”  Kanzius believed that no one should have to go through the barbaric treatments that even the most traditional chemical and radiation therapies avail today.  His concept was simple: begin with a piece of metal in the smallest form, a nanoparticle; target the cancer cell by coating the nanoparticle with an antibody that is attracted to a protein unique to the cancer cell; introduce the nanoparticles into the bloodstream via an IV; lastly, pass a controlled radiowave over the cancer cell.  The result – the nanoparticles heat up and destroy the cancer cells while the healthy neighboring cells remain untouched.  In other words, no side effects…indeed “the world’s most promising cancer treatment.”

So much has transpired since John’s original concept was devised.  Three large, human-sized GenV radiowave generating machines are in full operation at our labs in Houston at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  But what does that mean?  Now the successful processes developed on smaller machines can be replicated and tested on large subjects. The validated results will then be taken to the FDA for approval to begin human trials. The research is at a pivotal point.

Our work at three world-renowned institutions continues to evaluate and transform how we will eradicate cancer – without devastating side effects. Dr. Steven Curley’s work in the Kanzius Lab at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, along with others’ work at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and UC Davis, will revolutionize cancer treatments and save the lives of those battling cancer.

A cancer treatment without harmful side effects will one day transform the punctuation of a cancer patient’s life.  No longer will the sentence end with the question “survive?” or “cure?”  An exclamatory day is nearing and we believe treatment will result in “the cancer is gone – go and live!”

 MARK A. NEIDIG SR. is executive director of the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation (