Nov. 2, 2007 — -- This is the story of a man whose reaction to a cancer diagnosis was to go to his garage and invent something -- a machine that serious scientists are now taking seriously.
John Kanzius made his fortune owning radio stations in Pennsylvania, then retired with his wife to Florida. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
While he was undergoing chemotherapy he decided there has to be a better way to fight this illness. And even though he wasn't a doctor, he figured he could figure it out himself.
Kanzius said he was inspired to invent his cancer-fighting machine after seeing the children who were getting chemotherapy at the same time he was.
"I noticed young kids losing their smiles, losing their hair. And I said to myself, 'Today's chemotherapy is cruel. There's gotta be a better way to cure cancer,'" Kanzius told ABC News.
So he set out to invent his own chemotherapy alternative, and his wife, Marianne, had a front row seat.
"He woke me up in the middle of the night making all this clamor in the kitchen," she said.
Using pie pans, spare parts from ham radios and know-how from his days as a radio engineer, he invented the first generation of what would become a machine that uses radio waves -- not radioactivity -- to fight cancer.
Now could a garage invention turn into a breakthrough cancer treatment?
Some medical professionals think maybe.
"It's beyond remarkable," said Dr. Steven Curley of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. "He was just a private citizen who just came up with an idea and had the wherewithal and the tinkering ability to do it."
Curley and his colleagues at the center took Kanzius' made-in-the-garage invention very seriously.
They began testing the radio-wave technology on animals, and say they completely destroyed liver cancer tumors in rabbits. The findings will be part of a study to be published in the journal Cancer.
Kanzius got tearful when talking about the study. "Not until the manuscripts were available online for me to read did the gravity of what we developed…hit me," he said.
Bu cancer experts are quick to point out this research is very preliminary.
"I would guess, based on what we know now that we are probably five years from the first clinical trials in humans. Hopefully it will be faster," said Dr. Robert C. Young of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Kanzius' cancer is now in remission. And he is careful when asked whether he thinks his invention can ever be used on him.
"My only wish is that I could be around long enough to see the first human trials."
Experts stress that it's important to emphasize that this research is still in the very early stages. Just because it appears to have worked in animals does not mean it will work in humans. It is nonetheless a remarkable story. One scientist told ABC News that in 20 years of cancer research he has never encountered anything like this.