15 Year Old High School Student Revolutionizes Cancer Detection
Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old from Crownsville, Md., has designed a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that can detect it earlier than any other. As a freshman in high school, Andraka developed a simple dip-stick test that determines levels of mesothelinâ€”a biomarker for early-stage pancreatic cancer that is found in blood and urine. Pancreatic cancer is most of the most deadly forms of the diseaseâ€”killing 19 out of every 20 patients within five years of diagnosis, mainly because it is difficult to diagnose until its final stages. Andrakaâ€™s test could ultimately save millions of lives.
Andrakaâ€™s invention won the $75,000 scholarship grand prize at the 2012 Intel Science Fair. The patent-pending test, which works similar to diabetic testing strips, has proven 28 times faster and 28 times less-expensive than tests currently available. Andraka claims his breakthrough is more than 90 percent accurate and costs only 3 centsâ€”and could increase survival rates by 100 percent. The same test can be modified to detect other biomarkers for ovarian and lung cancer, as well.
â€śWhatâ€™s so cool about that is its applicability to other diseasesâ€¦for example other forms of cancer, tuberculosis, HIV, environmental contaminants like E Coli, salmonella,â€ť Andraka told Take Part. â€śAll for three cents for a test that takes five minutes to run.â€ť
Andrakaâ€™s discovery came after a family friend died from pancreatic cancer and the student began to read up on the subject. After reading an article describing carbon nanotubes in a biology lesson, Andraka had an â€śepiphany.â€ť From that momen, he spent weeks in a Johns Hopkins lab designing experiments and running tests, mentored by professor of pathology and oncology Anirban Maitra.
Andraka now hopes to market his testsâ€”although it could be a decade before they become available to the public.
â€śEssentially what Iâ€™m envisioning here is that this could be on your shelf at your Walgreens, your Kmart,â€ť he said. â€śLetâ€™s say you suspect you have a condition… you buy a test for that. And you can see immediately if you have it.â€ť