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In case you can’t recognize your own organs, that is a pancreas. With this new test, you can find out if you have pancreatic cancer 168 times faster.

2012-05-23

Co.Exist

A Cheap, Accurate Cancer Sensor, Created By A 15-Year-Old

This new test is better than old tests for pancreatic cancer by astronomical margins. And it was invented by someone who’s still worried about passing his driving test.

Every year, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair wows us with the ingenuity of high school students. This year’s first place winner is particularly impressive. Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old student from Maryland, came up with a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests. It’s also 90% accurate, 400 times more sensitive, and 26,000 times less expensive than today’s methods. In short: It’s a lot better.

Andraka was inspired to focus on pancreatic cancer because a friend’s brother was killed by the disease. "I became interested in early detection, did a ton of research, and came up with this idea," he says.

Andraka (center) with the other winners.

Andraka’s dip-stick sensor can test urine or blood for a certain protein (mesothelin) that indicates the existence of the specific cancer. The paper strip changes conductivity based on how much of the protein is in the blood. It can, according to Andraka, detect the cancer even before it becomes invasive.

This isn’t Andraka’s first science fair. "I really love science and science fairs because you get to meet these people that you would never meet before," he says. "Before this I was into the environment. A few years ago I was detecting bioavailable water pollution with glowing bacteria."

All of Andraka’s $75,000 in winnings will go to his college education. He plans on studying to become a pathologist. In the meantime, the high school student plans to start clinical trials with the sensor, meet with Quest Diagnostics, and get the product on the market within 10 years. What were you doing in high school?

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28 Comments

  • PolitiJim

    The FDA is a mess.  There are FDA trial approved cancer CURES that the FDA will not allow to be approved because it eats into the Big Pharma chemo industry (story and links here: http://rantpolitical.com/2012/...

    A friend is a CEO of a MRI technology.  He told me that they triple their normal price (that would still make them a tidy profit) because the hospital cash flows are so tight due to regulation - they normally don't get paid for over 2 years.

    Congrats to this young man.  Maybe in a few years someone will overhaul excessive regulation so things like this can help people on a massive scale.

  • Ikeman

    Money, money.. money...
    He should share his knowledge with the rest. That's better than any patent!

    So people could create these strips themselves..  

  • Sara

    I don't think the rest of you understand.... ANY new product in medicine takes about 10 or more years to get on the market due to rigorous testing and longitudinal studies to make sure it works and is harmless.  Yes, even testing strips.

  • scottidee

    Not So Fast Sara ...
    *
    95+% of medically related discoveries are by pharmaceutical companies who would own any patent, manufacturing  and distribution rights  ( Im guessing  prior legal advisement on behalf of  Andraka and school)

    However, in this case, we have public disclosure of simple, yet previously established mechanisms of action.

    Insurance companies, politicians and attorneys will likely shove this test through the 10 year obstruction bureaucracy   of the FDA.

    Follow the muh'ney (-:

  • Nicholas M. Cummings

    Drugs I understand

    Strips, not so much :/

    ... a lot of bureaucrats making a lot of money giving good products the run-around.  It shouldn't take 10 years to prove that this thing detects more pancreatic cancer cases than the alternative, with statistical significance... three years, five tops.

    Ho: Strips = existing
    Ha: Strips > existing

    Two distinct situations.  One is if the strips detect more cases in general, with bias towards too may positive results minimizing the left end of the tail versus too many negative results where you miss cases.  Second is if the people missed who had one or the other test died, using medical records.

    Again, 3-5 years tops.  The first situation could be tested in a year.  The second one would take 3-5 years for the sample size to die. 

    This product doesn't have to be perfect - it only has to be statistically BETTER THAN THE EXISTING PRODUCT with a 95-99% confidence.

  • Tom

    What was I doing in High School? Why would I compare my life with his? He is doing great things, and there is no need to "compare" lives, as we were in competition with each other for greatness. Let the great be great, and let all others be themselves as well because they are great too. Without the plain gold ring the diamond would not shine. 

  • Joseph Palmer

    Well said Tom. Andraka is one bright individual that should help inspire us all, so say we all. 

  • braindoc3

    very impressed, lets talk about brain cancer. J.C. at braindoc3@hotmail.com   congratulations

  • Ltschop2

    10 years!!???!!! If this young man is so shrewd he should think of a way to get this taken care of in less than 10 years. People are dying for his test!!!!

  • Myra Grand

    With so many people's lives to be saved, the implentation of this device has got to take less than 10 years!!! Kudos to Andraka!!

  • impressed

    Why wait 10 years?! Get this product pushed through faster! So many people affected by cancer could use this now. It is ingenious!

  • Scott Barnes

    Nerds.. lets get em...

    See.. be nice to your nerds at School they may save your life one day.

  • Sergiu Adrian Terec

    Good idea! I hope it will turn out to be an efficient method and will be applied in general practice, because today's methods of detecting pancreatic cancer are very expensive and most of the times, inaccurate. Good luck, kid!