Simple, Fast & Effective Cancer Test by a 15 year old

A 15-year-old has beaten out billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies with his simple and effective cancer diagnostic test. Jack Andraka is the miracle whiz kid that came up with a totally unique pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers detection test that takes 5 minutes to administer, costs 3 cents, is non-invasive, has been 100% accurate in blind trials, is 168 times faster and 26,000 times cheaper than the current gold standard.
The discovery has the potential to save a lot of lives and save a lot of money in the process. The current test for pancreatic cancer, in addition to its low detection levels, costs $800 and is not covered by insurance. This method for detecting pancreatic cancer hasn’t changed in nearly 60 years.

Like a lot of innovators, Jack Andraka's journey to discovery started with tragedy. After a friend of the family — who the teenager considered an uncle — died of pancreatic cancer, Andraka started researching the disease. He found that more than 85 percent of all pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed too late. So late, in fact, that by the time it is detected, there is less than a 2 percent chance of survival.

“I was walking up and down the aisle and getting less and less confident. One girl created a new way to detect breast cancer using the computer. Mammography is really painful and invasive, but her method was noninvasive.” Jack. Through his research, he developed a hypothesis: What if mesothelin, a biomarker prominent in pancreatic cancer, could be used to detect the disease at an earlier stage?

The problem with attempting to pinpoint cancer with this biomarker is that it can easily be overlooked among healthy, functional cells in the human body. Tracking mesothelin “is not just like trying to find a needle in a haystack, It’s like trying to find a needle in a stack of nearly identical needles.” Andraka said. Andraka had an epiphany one day while sitting in his high school biology class: What if he could use carbon nanotubes in his invention? They’re about an atom thick, and he calls them the “superhero” of material science.

Jack thought about the problem and came up with a plan and a budget.  Jack contacted about 200 people at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health about his plan. He got 197 rejection letters and then finally got an acceptance from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. After months of work, and many failures along the way, Andraka came up with his solution: a paper sensor that can detect increased levels of a protein called mesothelin, which is a pancreatic cancer biomarker, when it is exposed to blood or urine. 
Jack indicated that the test will take three to five years before it’s on the market, both as a take home test and in doctor’s offices.

What's the biggest lesson he's learned through all of this? The Internet makes everything possible. It allowed him to research pancreatic cancer, contact Maitra, and spread the word about his discovery. He also gained 2,400 Facebook friends after he won the Intel prize.

Jack Andraka’s breakthrough pancreatic cancer test would have never come about were it not for access to online journals — what Internet guru Aaron Swartz was promoting before his death. Andraka “religiously” used free online academic journals in the research because “in most online databases, articles cost about $35, and there are only about 10 pages.

An online digital activist and developer, Aaron Swartz committed suicide earlier this month, weeks before the start of his trial, where he would face three decades in prison for allegedly “stealing” millions of pay-walled articles from Online academic service JSTOR to make them available to the public for free. Swartz was also just 15 when he helped co-develop RSS, a form of Web publication, that has enabled dissidents in China and the Middle East, North Africa region to circumvent censors. 

“"You don't need a degree from a pretigious university to have your ideas valued. The public funds a lot of this research. Shouldn’t the public have access to it?” Jack Andraka.

Both Andraka and Wikler believe the cancer detection technology Andraka has invented indicates a strong need for a free flow of information on the web.

The results of Jack’s diagnostic test were published on the Society for Science and the Public web site, and Jack has patented his discovery. His discovery earned him the Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair earlier this year plus $75,000 in scholarships as well as the Google Thinking Big Award for the project, addressing a large and seemingly impossible problem and finding an elegant solution with broad impact.. The award brought him magazine features and an opportunity to speak at a TEDx conference. Jack is now competing for the Tricorder X-Prize foundation award; his progressive views on education, healthcare, the internet and business.

Jack Andraka is a 15-year-old Maryland high school student, a member of the National Junior Wildwater Kayak team and has won numerous awards in national and international math competitions. Born into a family of scientists, Andraka has been involved in science fairs since sixth grade. His father is a civil engineer, and his older brother, Luke, won an MIT THINK Award last year.

So think about Jack Andraka the next time you hear that something can’t be done, someone asks you to help out with his project or you’re hesitating to give one of your ideas a shot. Also, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need a giant team, billions of dollars in resources or even more than 15 years of life experience to do something amazing.