Most people probably have a perception of high-school sophomores, which usually involves friends, parties, alcohol, everything but school and work. However, while that may be true of some, one that definitely hasn’t been doing any of those things is Jack Andraka. While everyone else was out socialising, Andraka has managed to develop a test for pancreatic cancer which can detect the disease and tumours before they get out of hand – the first test of its kind.
Many will argue that something like this was a necessity that needed to be accomplished sooner rather than later, no one expected it to be done by a 15-year-old boy though! The reason for the urgency and because pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any type of cancer, he has accomplished something truly remarkable with his work, which will hopefully be put to good use very soon.
The reason pancreatic cancer is so deadly is because in the early stages, it shows no symptoms whatsoever and affects more than 8,000 people each year in the UK and over 45,000 in the U.S. Due to poor testing procedures in the past, by the time the cancer is detected, 4 out of 5 people are inoperable and are most likely not going to survive the disease.
Lots of people will probably be wondering, what would motivate a teenager to do such a thing? Well, Andraka has felt the pain that cancer causes first-hand when his uncle passed away from pancreatic cancer. It was then that he began working on his research, which was rejected by 197 leading researchers. Anirban Maitra, a professor of pathology and oncology at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, was the one to finally accept his proposal and together, they have created a dip-stick that could test the biomarker of pancreatic cancer, a protein known as mesothelin in blood or urine, something which is so simple yet so effective.
This amazing test is not only 168 times faster than the existing method, but it is also more sensitive and is thousands cheaper than the current alternatives. Many experts believe that this dipstick could become the leading test for pancreatic cancer, with its cost-efficient production and 100% success rate. That said, for something so important, it needs to endure far more rigorous testing to ensure it does in fact work. Maitra couldn’t praise Andraka enough saying that he’s a remarkable child with a strong passion for what he does. He goes on to say that he thinks he will go on to do some great things in his lifetime.