Return to Transcripts main page

Sanjay Gupta MD

A Way to Destroy Cancer?; Doctor Gives Homeless Kids Health Care; What Health Information Do You Need to Carry?

Aired January 05, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: This is HOUSE CALL and I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. As we begin a new year, I want to jumpstart your year with some inspirational stories, showing you how to take charge of your health and help others in ways big and small.
First up, a man battling cancers gathers some pots and some pans and some electronics and possibly discovers a way to destroy cancer.

Then, meet a doctor who drives around some tough neighbors bringing homeless kids some desperately needed health care.

And you know people with health problems need to carry health information. But what if you wear contact lenses? Tune in, you'll be surprised.

Plus, would you drive three hours to donate blood? What if you were legally blind? Meet Wilbur. He's just one of CNN's heroes.

We start, though, with a man who isn't a scientist, didn't go to medical school, but has a passion for helping people suffering from cancer just like him. What he's discovered may just be part of the future in fighting cancer.


GUPTA (voice-over): When John Kanzius retired to Sanibel Island, he thought he'd fish, relax. Instead, he ended up fighting for his life after being diagnosed with leukemia. Kanzius turned to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for treatment. While getting chemotherapy, he found himself being haunted by the faces of fellow cancer patients.

JOHN KANZIUS, CANCER PATIENT: I saw way too many young people die before their time.

GUPTA: So he started thinking and tinkering. Kanzius worked in radio his whole life. He picked up some transmitters, a few of his wife's pots and pans, and designed a machine to battle cancer.

KANZIUS: What if I could make the cancer cells act like little radio receivers and pick up the signal? And when they pick up the signal, they get hot, they create a fever and the cancer cell dies?

GUPTA: He showed it to his oncologist.

MICHAEL KEATING, DR., MD ANDERSON: It was an attractive concept to be able to kill off the cells without invading the patient's body. So that was the power of a good idea.

GUPTA: His doctor then took his patient's invention to a cancer surgeon, who thought of using microscopic metal bits to conduct the heat from the radio waves. Here's how it works. Inject the metal bits, known as nano particles, into the tumors, direct radio waves in. The radio waves then heat the metal. And that destroys the cancer cells.

The early results are promising.

STEVEN CURLEY, DR., MD ANDERSON: If we can target these nanoparticles into the cancer cells and then do this treatment, there won't be a lot of the side effects that people usually associate with chemotherapy drugs.

GUPTA: Doctors hope the machine will eventually be used to fight all types of cancers, including breast cancer and liver cancer, though human trials are still three to four years away. While the inventor is still fighting leukemia, he hopes his discovery will make a difference.

KANZIUS: We need to treat their cancers in a more humane way. If nothing else, I hope I have changed the prevailing thinking of the medical world.


GUPTA: And there is an ironic point here as well. This treatment is targeted, zeroing in on specific cells. Mr. Kanzius has leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood. Now the cells there flow throughout the body. So it's more difficult to use this machine for his type of cancer.

But Kanzius said he never invented the machine for himself. He just wanted to help people he saw were suffering.

Well, that need to help is also the motivation for one our CNN heroes, Dr. Randy Christensen. He's a doctor in southern Arizona, who gives free medical care to street kids who have nowhere else to turn.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was 10-years-old, I decided I'm going to run away from home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been on the streets from 12 'til to 20.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's scary to live on the streets. There's so many drugs and there's violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I sleep in an abandoned house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was taken away from my parents when I was like 10-years-old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad dropped me off at a dumpster. He told me don't even think about going back home.

RANDY CHRISTENSEN, DR.: There's at least 5,000 to 10,000 kids on the streets of Arizona. We turn our heads, we don't look at them in their eyes. Many of the kids are truly forgotten. I'm Dr. Randy Christensen. I'm the medical director for the Crews and Health Mobile.

We take care of kids on the streets through our medical mobile van. Everything that would be in a regular doctor's office is on the van. All of the kids that are seen by us are seen free of charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you need anything? Did you need a new backpack?

CHRISTENSEN: It's never been about the money. I went to medical school thinking that I was going to be a surgeon, but everything that made me stop and think had to do with children and adolescents. I chose to come out on the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Christensen, he makes it to where people actually want to come back and actually want to get help.

CHRISTENSEN: We pull up with the van. And within five to ten minutes, there's 20 or 30 kids coming out of every different alley or different street.

You get out there and you see some of these kids. And you talk to them. And you give them a little bit of dignity and respect. And all of a sudden, they open up. It's like a lightbulb goes on and they want to talk. And they want to tell you their story.

Here, let me listen to you. I think you might have a pneumonia. Take a deep breath. They still have that gleam of hope in their eyes. It's that hope that gives you hope. And at the very end, they give you a big hug and they say thank you. And that means the most to me.


GUPTA: And tens of thousands of you have come to the aid of Dr. Christensen. And because of you, he's been able to expand his work to full time and get a second health mobile.

Now stay where you are. When HOUSE CALL returns, what medical workers want to make sure you have in case of an emergency. It's simple and it could save your life. And later, meet a dentist who travels worlds away to help people keep their smiles.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To what I'm doing does not require heroism. It requires a willingness, a willingness to be of service to others. And we all have that.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. Every week, we bring you ways to empower yourself to get the care you need. Well today, Elizabeth Cohen is here to talk about what doctors and nurses say you need in the case of a health emergency.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you wear contact lenses or take vitamins or herbs or any kind of medicine, you need to carry around with you a personal health record. That's a little card that has all the important information that emergency room staff would need to treat you if you came into the emergency room and could not speak for yourself.

The emergency room staff says if they don't know what medicines you're on, they might give you another drug that interacts, and could really harm you or even possibly kill you.

Now you might be wondering about the contact lenses, that's because if they don't know you're wearing contact lenses, they could stay in your eyes for days and possibly scratch your corneas. Now for a list of the information that you should put on this card, go to

For Empowered Patient, I'm Elizabeth Cohen.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Elizabeth. And make sure to check out that list that Elizabeth talked about at Just look for her picture and click on the link. Every week, she writes about ways you can empower yourself to get the most out of your health care.

Coming up, when a pill means another day of life, what would you do to ensure people got their medicine? One man started using drugs that were going to be thrown away. This story just ahead.

But first, how much do you know about the history of HIV? Researchers have been searching for a cure for more than 20 years. The answer may lie in one of our species closest relatives. And that's a topic of this week's quick quiz.

Scientists theorize that HIV most likely jumped to humans from which commonly hunted primate? A, baboons; B, orangutans; C, lemurs; D, chimpanzees. The answer a minute away.


GUPTA: Before the break we asked, scientists theorize HIV most likely jumped to humans from this commonly hunted primate. A, baboons; B, orangutans; C, lemurs; or D, chimpanzees. The answer, D. The searchers believe HIV was introduced to humans when hunters became exposed to the blood of infected African chimpanzees.

Well, doctors continue working toward a vaccine for AIDS. Meanwhile, advances in treatment means a diagnosis is no longer a certain death sentence. But in places with limited access to care, AIDS still takes millions of lives. So here's how one man is trying to slow that trend, using old drugs to give new hope.


JESUS WEISS: The simplest idea could make the biggest impact. Recycling HIV medicine, how many people are there that are looking for medicines? And how many people with HIV in the United States have no idea that they could save lives with something that is just a leftover for them?

My name is Jesus Weiss. I am the founder for AIDS International. And I'm dedicated to improve the quality of life of people with HIV in developing countries.

Early 1993, I got a job as a counselor in one of the Latino AIDS organizations here in New York in terms of helping people abroad. There was very little that you could do. There was no medicine at all. Only people with lots of money could come to the United States. The rest, the common people have to die.

In 1996, the first two protease inhibitors got approved. But some people couldn't tolerate it. A treatment that costs $1200 was being thrown away. I just knew it was wrong, purely wrong. I was telling people, why don't you bring it to me?

We started using the concept of recycling HIV medicine. All the medicine comes from people with HIV around the U.S. and goes abroad. People can send it directly to us. Or if they live in the New York city area, we can pick it up. And we send it on a monthly basis straight to the patients.

This is a matter of saving life. People need this medicine, we need to get to it them. It's a responsibility. I see it as what I'm here to do.


GUPTA: Because of Jesus' hard work, Aid for AIDS is now the largest American HIV drug recycling program, collecting $4.2 million worth of medication in one year alone. To read more, maybe even help, just go to their Web site at

Coming up on HOUSE CALL, fighting an uphill battle, helping the smallest victims of the AIDS epidemic one village at a time.

And later, you're asking the doctor and I've got the answer. It's about diet and your heart. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. Every day all over the world, there are people working to make life a little bit better for those in need. Their stories are often left untold. But CNN is shining a light on these everyday folks. We call them CNN heroes. And for our show, medical marvels. An example, a young woman helping some of the world's smallest victims of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa.


NTHABELENG LEPHOTO: Personally, I have people very close to me dying of HIV/AIDS. This stupid virus is tearing lives apart. My name is Nthabeleng Lephoto coming from Touching Tiny Lives. We support orphaned and vulnerable infants.

Our safe house is for critically ill or in need children. For us, it's babies come first We have to give them medication even if sometimes they have to cry. But it's not just the medication. They start feeling loved.

80 percent of the children we help are in the rural areas. We go to each individual household. We give them nutrition, like food stamp packages and medication. We want to discuss their own problems where they feel free.

It's HIV/AIDS leaving the children with grandmothers. They shouldn't be doing this, but they have to. I need to support these people. It's going to go on and on. Believe me, there are times when I really say this is too much. But to see them smile, starting to enjoy life as it comes make me want to help more and more and more and more.

If there's no touching tiny lives, all these children that we have helped would have died.


GUPTA: Well, and from saving lives in a small country of Lesotho, to creating clinics in Kenya, Dr. Trey Wilson, a dentist in Manhattan, is changing lives. He's also helping people smile.


TREY WILSON, DR.: Every single one of us has that capacity to be of service to others. And I just did something about it. I'm Trey Wilson, I live in New York City. And I provide free dental care and dental education to Kenyans.

Dental care in Kenya is virtually nonexistent. When I arrived in Kenya, routinely I saw in my clinic, 4-year-olds with 20 teeth that needed to be extracted. I bring a team of dentists and volunteers that provide dental care in two clinics that we've established in Katali (ph), which is the fifth largest city in Kenya.

When we arrive in the morning, there are already 400 or 500 people assembled, ready to be seen. My organization gives patients the opportunity to have their teeth fixed. We provide dental education. And we hand out toothbrushes to people.

There was a woman who waited seven hours to see me because she said, I like my smile and I won't have anything to smile about if they pull my front tooth. I think that it would be a good idea to try to save that tooth. She was so happy that her beauty, I mean, her beauty really came out.

Give me a hug. All right.

My life would have been a Monday through Friday Madison Avenue dentist, getting into my car and driving out to the country and gardening all weekend. But I had a revelation that with just a little bit of effort, I could make a huge impact.

All of us are far more resourceful than we ever think we are. And we have much more to give than we think that we have.


GUPTA: And for more information about Dr. Wilson's work, go to or And by the way, tabasamu means smile in Swahili in case you're curious. And to read more about Touching Tiny Lives and their work with children orphaned or impacted by AIDS, click on

Now coming up on HOUSE CALL, he could have helped you and you wouldn't have even known it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told me once I saved this lady's life. That really made me feel great.


GUPTA: He's been doing something that half of all Americans can do to save people's lives, but most don't. Meet another CNN hero when HOUSE CALL returns.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. For 33 years, Wilbur Armstrong has been doing something that could save lives. At first, it was easy, but now it takes three hours and six buses every two weeks for him to give life saving blood and platelets. But Wilbur keeps going.



WILBUR ARMSTRONG: My name is Wilbur Armstrong. I've been donating blood for 33 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wilbur is a very good donator. He never flinches and he never complains.

ARMSTRONG: You know, so many people are afraid of needless, but it doesn't hurt at all. Every other Thursday, I go to donate blood. When I became legally blind, I couldn't drive anymore. I can travel around in public by myself. I take three buses. Roughly an hour and a half each way.

HARVEY SCHAFFLER, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & DONOR RECRUITMENT: Wilbur's exceptional. He makes his 216 platelet donation. Patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy require platelet treatment. So it's really urgent that people donate.

ARMSTRONG: They told me I had a high platelet count. And I was what they call a splitter. A splitter's a double donation. All blood takes about 10 minutes. To split the platelets, it takes you an hour and a half but you'll be helping out two people instead of one.

RICHARD PRENDERGAST, RECRUITER: For all the platelets he's donated, he's bound to run into people that have his platelets running through their blood and they're alive because of him.

ARMSTRONG: I don't know who these people are that I'm helping, but I'm helping somebody. And if I'm helping to keep them alive, it makes me feel good. I lost three kids in my neighborhood to cancer. Something like that shakes you up. These kids, they're just beginning to live and they're gone already. So I says if I can prevent somebody else from dying like that, let me do it.


GUPTA: Wilbur, thank you so much. And if you're interested in donating blood, just go to the American Red Cross Web site at You can easily look up the nearest blood drive.

And if you'd like to nominate someone you think deserves special recognition with the CNN hero award, CNN's going to begin accepting online nominations for 2008 CNN heroes. And that's next month. Check the Web site for details at And if you missed any part of today's show, make sure to check out, where you can catch anything that you missed.

Now just ahead on HOUSE CALL, one of my favorite segments. It's called "ask the doctor." And this morning, we're talking about eating and heart disease. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. And it's time for our segment "ask the doctor," one of my favorite segments. We're going to our inbox to find out what's on your mind.

And here's a question that Ken in Wyoming had for me. "You've stated that heart disease runs in your family. I was wondering what types of food you eat and do you think it is possible what you eat could be part of your heart related problems?"

Well, there's no question, Ken, that diet and your overall health have a strong interplay. I eat meat. I eat eggs, but I try and eat leaner meat. I use eggs mainly as a source of protein.

The biggest change I made, Ken, is trying seven different colored food a day. I eat many small meals. That keeps my heart disease in check, keeps my blood sugars in check as well. And it seems to keep me on the path to good health long term.

I hope that helps, Ken. Certainly everyone with a family history of heart disease should be vigilant about getting their numbers like blood pressure, like cholesterol checked, and of course, watching what they eat.

And make sure to watch next weekend, when we're talking with the acting surgeon general. If you have a question for Dr. Steven Gaussen (ph), go to Plus week two can be hard for keeping these resolutions. Tune in for tips to sticking to any resolution you've made in the new year.

Remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.