15-year-old develops revolutionary test for cancer

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

A high-school student from Maryland is changing the course of medicine.

Jack Andraka, 15, recently developed a simple inexpensive test for early-stage pancreatic cancer.

"Jack Andraka created a simple dip-stick sensor to test for levels of mesothelin, which is a biomarker for early-stage pancreatic cancer that’s found in blood and urine. The method is similar to diabetic testing strips, utilizing just a pinprick of blood and costing all of three cents to make," Take Part reports.

Andraka's invention won him Intel's prestigious $75,000 Gordon E. Moore Award this past December at Intel's annual Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest research and science competition for high-school students.

Current pancreatic cancer-detection methods are "woefully ineffective," leaving most cancers undiagnosed until their final stages. By then, it's usually too late for treatment.

"[Andraka's] novel patent-pending sensor has proved to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive, and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests," the Daily Mail reports.

Andraka believes his simple detection test would help patients identify the disease at its earliest stages, before it becomes invasive, and possibly boosting survival rates of the deadly cancer to "close to 100 per cent."

"Andraka created his potentially revolutionary pancreatic cancer detection tool at nearby Johns Hopkins University, though he does sometimes tinker in a small basement lab at the family’s house in leafy Crownsville, Maryland, where a homemade particle accelerator crowds the foosball table," Smithsonian magazine reports.

Perhaps even more impressive, Andraka claims his strips can be altered to detect biomarkers for other diseases.

"What’s so cool about that is its applicability to other diseases…for example other forms of cancer, tuberculosis, HIV, environmental contaminants like E Coli, salmonella," he says. "All for three cents for a test that takes five minutes to run."

The teen wants to mass market his invention so that it's available to everyone. He's already in talks with major corporations to make sure it hits shelves as soon as possible.

"I’ve gotten these Facebook messages asking, 'Can I have the test?'" Andraka tells Smithsonian magazine. "I am heartbroken to say no."

He hopes that "no" turns into a "yes" soon.

"Essentially what I’m envisioning here is that this could be on your shelf at your Walgreens, your Kmart," he tells Take Part. "Let’s say you suspect you have a condition…you buy the test for that. And you can see immediately if you have it. Instead of your doctor being the doctor, you’re the doctor."

Andraka's mentor, Anirban Maitra, a professor of pathology and oncology at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a top researcher in pancreatic cancer, has great expectations for the young scientist:

"He is what you would call a genius," Maitra tells the Washington Post. "He is really full of ideas. I think this kid is going to come up with something quite extraordinary in the years to come."