If you are a follower of American television's 60 Minutes, several years ago you may have seen an interview done by Leslie Stahl of a man named John Kanzius, who actually found a way to kill cancer cells while experimenting with his wife's pie pans and hot dogs.
A retired radio and television executive, Kanzius retired only to be diagnosed with terminal leukemia. He underwent 36 rounds of chemotherapy at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, only to be sent home. But especially after seeing the forlorn expressions of children with leukemia, Kanzius was not ready to give up.
The retired radio executive had built radios as a child. He reasoned that since radio waves pass through the body harmless until a receiver stops them and converts them into energy, maybe if cancer cells could be turned into receivers, then radio waves could be used to kill them without harming other tissues.
The bottom line of the story of the Kanzius machine is that it seemed to work, and it worked well enough it's now under development at a university laboratory. Kanzius himself, however, died of pneumonia in 2008.
That's not the end of the story, however.
Radiofrequency ablation, as it is now called, is an increasingly common treatment for solid tumors of the breast, adrenal glands, kidneys, prostate, and brain. It's a technique to be used to kill the cancer without killing the patient who could not stand the operation, and for tumors that are not, to use the medical term, "resectable."
The problem with radiofrequency ablation of non-resectable pancreatic tumors is that applying radio waves from outside the body would damage healthy pancreatic tissue along with the tumor. To deal with this issue, surgeons at the Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Chinese PLA 309 Hospital in Beijing have developed a technique in which a needle bearing a radio frequency generator is inserted near the cancerous tissue with the help of ultrasound to guide the generator exactly in the right place. The radio waves kill the tumor that the surgeon cannot remove.
The results of this technique, except in possibly one of 32 cases, is not a cure. However, it enables some patients to get off pain medication completely, and it usually adds several months, up to 2-1/2 years, to life.
Short of traveling to Beijing, and even if you had the resources to make the right connections and you could tolerate the trip, it's not going to be easy to find a surgeon who will try the technique on a pancreatic cancer. However, there may be one. That's why I am posting this article. If you would like to read the research in the medical journal, please follow this link.
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