Curiosity, a wildly optimistic spirit and a healthy dose of serendipity has led a Skidmore College music professor to believe he has stumbled upon out-of-the-box cures for cancer and Lyme disease.
Anthony Holland, who teaches composition, orchestration, conducting and music technology at Skidmore, has spent thousands of non-teaching hours over more than five years experimenting with a theory so far-fetched it has almost completely disappeared from mainstream scientific studies.
“The research I’ve been doing for the last six years, it all started with a book I picked up on Amazon,” Holland, 56, said. “It’s called ‘Lost Science.’ ”
The book covers scientists who have been either forgotten or remembered as fringe thinkers. The theories and people documented appealed to Holland, whose interest in unwinding mysteries began at a young age with the challenges of music.
“Every time I would discover a new musical instrument I would be very curious about how you play it,” he said of a hobby that led to a big collection of instruments that he can play.
Holland’s interest in science was sparked as a child growing up in Cleveland. His father, a court stenographer, would share the testimony of scientific experts he had heard earlier in the day. Initially this admiration led to a love of physics, but science took a back seat in college with a course load revolving almost solely around music, and then a job teaching at Skidmore.
With the discovery of “Lost Science,” Holland developed a thirst he had to quench, to the point where he found himself trying to recreate an experiment that posited the idea that the effects of gravity could be negated by precisely applied high voltage. It wasn’t long before he had created his own “lifter,” which basically looks like short pieces of tinfoil arranged in geometric shapes with a lot of open space and could hover in the air when subjected to electricity.
Holland viewed this success as proof of the scientist’s theory, even though mainstream scientists assert that the flight stems from air currents generated by the high voltage. “My personal feeling is that there is a very complex phenomenon going on,” he said, based on what he could see with his own eyes and feel with his hands.
The disputed science behind that experiment says a lot about an eventual break that Holland would have with his collaborator on cancer experiments.
After his initial achievement, Holland became captivated with an experiment done by Royal Rife, who reportedly built a machine in the 1930s that cured more than 25 different diseases by hitting specific cells with specific electromagnetic frequencies.
The idea intrigued Holland because it tied in with his work at Skidmore. “What I teach the music students here are all about wave forms, the frequency contents of waves, how to digitally synthesize waves … and how to alter waves,” he said. “That kind of has been my specialty for years.”
Because of this connection, and the existence of a handful of other scientists practicing this theory, Holland believed Rife’s machine was theoretically possible and wanted to go about proving it. The only problem was he didn’t know how to proceed.
Skidmore biology professor Bernie Possidente said when Holland went to the biology department with his idea about destroying cells, they would have thought he was a nut if they didn’t already know him.
With the help of professors like Possidente, Holland learned how to use a microscope, prepare slides and conduct experiments. Using a machine he had assembled himself from components purchased from commercial suppliers, he began testing his theory. Most of the experiments were conducted once or twice a week on weekend nights, because that was the only time students weren’t using the campus labs. The typical machine that Holland used to conduct his experiments simply looks like a glass orb between two pieces of wood.
“After a year and a half of experiments I eventually discovered that if I send in a very specific combination of frequencies I could literally shatter specific microorganisms,” Holland said. “Like a crystal glass, you can shatter it with sound, but you have to have the exact right frequency.”
He filmed his results, which included video of cells blistering, slowing down or sometimes just breaking up into tiny parts, and showed them to the Skidmore biology department. Possidente called the results “impressive and convincing.”
“You can actually see cells disintegrate under certain frequencies of sound,” he said. “It’s what [Holland] expected and predicted.”
With a positive reception from his colleagues, Holland set his sights on curing cancer, a disease that took the life of his father. This plan hit a wall right away at Skidmore, where there was a reluctance to have Holland conduct experiments with cancer cells on campus.
The way around this obstacle presented itself in the winter of 2008, when a former music student of Holland’s, Dr. Jonathan Brody, came to speak at Skidmore. At the time, Brody was leading a research team at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
“The title of his talk was thinking outside the box and herd mentality,” Holland said. “And the whole gist of his talk was that we’re not making progress in cancer research for the last 30 years because cancer researchers are doing the same thing over and over and over, because that’s the only way they’re getting their funding. If they try something off the wall they won’t get any money for it.”
The remarks resonated deeply with Holland, who then showed Brody the work he had done destroying microorganisms. Six months later, during the summer of 2009, the pair had begun working together, after Holland packed up his homemade equipment and drove down to Thomas Jefferson University for two weeks of experiments.
Including this first session, Holland made four trips to Philadelphia, with the final round of experiments in the end of August in 2010. The experiments generally consisted of comparing cancer cells treated only with chemotherapy to cancer cells treated with chemotherapy and a blast with a specific electromagnetic frequency.
“Over the course of that, we collected a lot of great data,” Holland said. He was most proud of some of their work on leukemia cells, which he was able to kill at a rate of about 25 percent to 30 percent above the cell death in the control sample.
But problems popped up during the experiments. In the first round, Holland didn’t give the control cancer cells the same amount of open air time as the treated cells, and in the final experiments the cancer cells being treated with his electromagnetic frequencies appeared to become immune to chemotherapy treatment.
Brody, who described the early rounds of results as “potentially something very exciting,” in an interview for the public radio show “This American Life,” which aired in the fall of 2011, was still interested in pursuing Holland’s work after the disappointing August 2010 results.
“I’m in it for the long haul as far as the collaboration is to try to figure this out,” Brody said. “And we’ll just keep at it.”
Holland, who didn’t admit it to Brody at the time, had no intention of continuing the collaboration in Philadelphia. Part of his desire for a change in direction stemmed from the fact that he didn’t really believe in the results of the final experiment, which he attributed to machine and human errors. He firmly believed that they had made progress at every step of the process.
The more pressing concern at the time was a lack of money; Holland said he was tapped out after spending around $20,000 conducting his experiments over the years.
Without telling Brody, he went on his own path, which included taking a year to set up a website for his new nonprofit organization, Novobiotronics. He hopes this will be a way for him to raise money, as he estimates he needs at least $70,000 to fund a year of experiments, but since its inception the website hasn’t raised much money.
Holland also began a new collaboration with SUNY Adirondack associate professor of microbiology Holly Ahern, who grabbed his attention in the summer of 2010 when she gave a presentation as the Saratoga Springs Public Library about treating Lyme disease with Rife’s techniques.
He wasn’t interested in Lyme disease, Ahern said after meeting and talking to Holland, “But I was very interested in what he was doing.”
The pair bonded over a willingness to embrace a technique that most other scientists were skeptical about. They began to conduct experiments on SUNY Adirondack’s Queensbury campus and recently began making headway with a bacteria similar to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The bacteria they’re working with has traditionally been resistant to antibiotics, but with the specific electromagnetic frequency and antibiotics they’ve begun killing the bacteria in their experiments.
“It’s more than just a breakthrough. It’s something that could turn into something phenomenal,” Ahern said. “[The antibiotic] couldn’t kill them before, but now it does.”
She characterized the results as very preliminary and said the next step is to present the findings in May at the American Society for Microbiology’s annual meeting, which will be the team’s second time presenting there.
Regardless of how premature these results are, Ahern remains a believer in its abilities, citing the fact her daughter’s Lyme disease symptoms have been kept in check for over a year by this procedure.
Even with this success and the troubles he had with cancer experiments, Holland’s primary goal is still to beat cancer. He said that he and Brody have entertained the possibility of working together in the future and Holland hinted about a contract he had been offered by a major medical cancer lab, which he wouldn’t name.
He hopes to get a lab of his own close to Saratoga Springs, where he could work six days a week on curing cancer. “We would blow people away with the data we could get,” he said, ever the optimist.
Anthony Holland’s website is at www.novobiotronics.com.